Typically the penultimate race of the season, Phoenix has now moved to the bottom of the schedule to host the Championship race. Chase Elliott defied odds and projections to win last week at Martinsville and punch his ticket for this one. It is now down to a “winner take all” race…so long as the winner is one of those eligible.
Here’s what to look for:
–Chase Elliott was slotted to start 1st in this one, but he has failed pre-race inspection twice and will head to the rear of the field. That could have monumental impacts on his Championship hopes; the mountain gets a little steeper!
–Joey Logano is sitting pretty after the news that Elliott must head to the back of the pack, but he has the worst average among Championship drivers. That would be alarming, but he just won this race back in the Spring!
–Brad Keselowski rolls off 3rd, looking for his 2nd career Championship. This could prove to be a difficult task for him, a Phoenix being a track he has yet to win at. The best he’s finished is 2nd — which COULD win him a title — back in the Fall of ’18. The best he’s done since then? 10th.
–Denny Hamlin starts 4th, and is the last of our Championship eligible drivers. That’s not to say that he has the worst odds among the, oh no. He’s got the best average at Phoenix out of the Championship drivers, a meaty 10.6. He did, however, finish 20th in the Spring, a finish that would most likely NOT earn him his first trophy today.
–Kyle Busch wishes that he was still alive in this thing, Phoenix being a track he’s had wads of success at. And that is putting it lightly: he carries a 2.9 average over the last ten races here, his worst finish in that span a 7th! The other nine were Top 4s or better.
–Kevin Harvick has a slew of single-digit finishes here, too. All Top 9s for him, and a 4.0 average finish. The eyes will be on the Championship 4 today, but Harvick and Kyle Busch are two that CERTAINLY could’ve been contending hard for this year’s title. They won’t, however, and this race has be come something truly unpredictable where anything can happen.
Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 3:00pm, green flag scheduled for 3:14pm.