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Chase Elliott earns his first NASCAR Cup title with win at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz.  — The new face of NASCAR circled Phoenix Raceway for a celebratory lap of his best achievement. Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s hottest driver, was now a Cup champion, too.

He stumbled on teammate Jimmie Johnson, who banged doorways with Elliott. Then the seven-time champion, in his ultimate race, gave Elliott a fist bump.

The torch has formally been handed.

This is NASCAR’s Camelot.

Elliott did what Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn’t and parlayed the recognition gleamed off his Hall of Fame father right into a NASCAR championship. The son of “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Georgia solidified himself as the brand new face of Hendrick Motorsports, of Chevrolet and of NASCAR on the day the best driver of this era referred to as it a profession.

Elliott drove from the again of the sphere to victory lane at Phoenix to win for Hendrick and Chevrolet, which had been shut out of the title race since Johnson gained his seventh and ultimate crown in 2016.

“I just never would have thought that this year would have gone like it has,” Elliott stated. “I mean, NASCAR Cup Series champion, are you kidding me? Unreal.”

He shared an extended hug with Johnson, who joined Elliott for the victory celebration.

“Oh my gosh, I mean, to share a moment like that, Jimmie’s last race, to win and lock the championship,” stated Elliott, “these are moments you’ll be able to solely dream, you realize, and it is a dream.

“Just hoping I don’t ever wake up.”

Elliott’s automobile failed pre-race inspection and the penalty value him the pole when he was despatched to the rear. But he raced his manner by visitors within the first stage after which took management of the championship. Elliott led seven occasions for a race-high 153 laps.

Johnson completed fifth — his finest end result since August — in his ultimate experience in Hendrick’s No. 48 Chevrolet.

“My heart is full,” stated Johnson, who’s tied with Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven titles. His 83 victories rank sixth on the profession wins record and his stretch of 5 consecutive titles from 2006-2010 is a NASCAR report.

Asked what he’ll keep in mind about his 686th race, Johnson stated will probably be Elliott’s breakthrough.

“Chase Elliott won his first championship. I’m so happy for that guy,” he stated. “I can recall going snowboarding with Bill out in Colorado and Chase was possibly 8 years outdated on skis, tremendous quiet, wouldn’t say a lot.

“To watch him grow up and to be around him and to give him some advice from time to time has really been meaningful for me. I think more about him winning a championship more than anything.”

Elliott, who turns 25 later this month, has adopted his father’s footsteps. Bill Elliott gained the 1988 championship and 16 occasions was voted by the followers NASCAR’s hottest driver.

Chase Elliott grew to become the fan favourite in 2018 after Earnhardt Jr. retired. He’s the first hottest driver to win the championship since his father gained his solely title.

The Elliotts joined Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett as simply the third father-son mixture to win a NASCAR Cup title. The Elliotts, alongside with Hall of Famer Tim Flock, are the one three drivers from Georgia to win the title.

Hendrick Motorsports prolonged its NASCAR report with a thirteenth championship.

Elliott handed Joey Logano with 42 laps remaining and pulled away in a race Elliott managed even because the 4 title contenders ran 1-2-3-4 a lot of the afternoon. Elliott had charged by the sphere in the course of the first stage to clump the 4 contenders within the winner-take-all season finale.

It was Elliott’s fifth win of the season, trailing solely Kevin Harvick (9) and Denny Hamlin (seven). Elliott’s win at Martinsville final week not solely locked him into the ultimate 4, however eradicated regular-season champion Harvick.

“I felt like we took some really big strides this year, and last week was a huge one,” stated Elliott, who additionally gained the All-Star race at Bristol. “To come out of that with a win and a shot to come here and have a chance to race is unbelievable.”

Elliott beat Brad Keselowski, who was adopted by Team Penske teammate Logano after which Hamlin, who’s now 0 for 4 in title races. Hamlin is taken into account alongside with Hall of Famer Mark Martin the very best driver and not using a Cup title.

“No one has won more than we have over the last two years. Pretty proud what this team is doing,” Hamlin stated. “We’ll come back and do it again next year.”

Hamlin was the one driver among the many ultimate 4 to not lead a lap at Phoenix, the place he gained final November.

Logano led 125 laps, however most of them early.

“It stings not winning, I’m not going to lie. It hurts,” he stated.

Keselowski had been holding out hope for a late warning to arrange a brief dash to the end, which is how each the Truck Series and Xfinity Series titles have been determined the earlier two nights.

“I would have loved to have raced it out,” Keselowski stated. “We just didn’t get any yellows.”

The race had simply 4 whole cautions, three of them scheduled breaks. It made Elliott’s coronation look straightforward.

The race accomplished NASCAR’s frenzied 38-race schedule that was overhauled due to the pandemic. The season was suspended 5 days after NASCAR raced at Phoenix in March, a race gained by Logano, and the engines idled for 10 weeks.

But dealing with crippling monetary losses to the groups and the business, NASCAR was one of many first sports activities to renew competitors. NASCAR went racing once more May 17 and used doubleheaders, midweek races and an enormous scheduling shuffle to finish the season for all three of its nationwide collection.

For the finale, the first one at NASCAR’s owned and transformed Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR loosened its “bubble” and allowed households and company for the first time since, nicely, the final time they raced at Phoenix. The post-race celebration was the first time Johnson had seen Rick Hendrick, his boss of 20 years, since March.

“If you can get through a year like this and you’re NASCAR, certainly it bodes well,” Keselowski stated. “I thought it was really amazing what the sport was able to achieve, that we were able to get all the races in. To be here today and have a great race for a championship, I think that’s really impressive.”

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