NASCAR’s final four championship contenders explain why they’ll win title at Phoenix
PHOENIX — After 35 races in approximately 9 months, the NASCAR Cup Series season boils down to Sunday’s champion race at Phoenix Raceway.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, the Champion 4 motorists, will complete versus each other for the 2021 crown and drive versus each other and the rest of the field for the race win. Elliott and Truex are racing for their 2nd champions — Elliott is the safeguarding champ while Truex won in 2017 — and Larson and Hamlin are going for their very first.
Sunday’s race is the 2nd at Phoenix this season. Truex won the very first back in March after leading 64 of 312 laps. Hamlin completed third, Elliott 5th and Larson seventh.
However to win the title, the Champion 4 motorists don’t necessarily have to win the race. The champion will be the highest finisher among the four of them — though since the format was enacted in the 2014 season, the champion also won the season’s final race. And with the way these four drivers and their teams have performed throughout the season, it seems likely one of them will take the checkered flag Sunday.
Ahead of the title race, each of the contenders explained why they think their team will win it all.
Martin Truex Jr.
No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
“Well, I’ve won here in the spring, and I’ve won a championship before. So those are two things in my favor.”
No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
“Just knowing how I’ve performed for the whole year. The bottom line is that every single week, I’ve showed up, [and] I’ve had a chance to win. And there’s just not been many years, except for the last couple, where that’s been the case, so I don’t see that changing overnight. …
“Certainly, I’m a stats and analytics person, but I also have a feel. When I have a feel, and it’s positive, the on-track [performance] usually backs that up. Usually, it gets confirmed pretty quickly that we’re able to win races or move on [in the playoffs]. Whatever it might be, my gut is usually correct.”
NASCAR FINAL FOUR: Breakdown of the drivers racing for the championship
NASCAR CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: Which driver is favored to win the 2021 title?
No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
“I think for us, I feel like we’re very capable. And I’ve said this a lot, but I just feel like when our group is at our best, I feel like we can run with whoever. And I felt that way for a long time, and I’ve been really proud of the way we’ve run these last couple weeks. Had a really strong car at Kansas [Speedway], had a really good car Martinsville [Speedway]. And there’s no reason why we can’t go and have a shot to win this thing.”
No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
“I’m not sure. I do not know. I don’t really know. Maybe just the experience of winning a lot this year and the confidence that that brings. But I don’t know.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NASCAR championship: Final 4 motorists state why they will win at Phoenix
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.