Former NASCAR driver and racing legend Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” On Sunday, four NASCAR Cup Series drivers will have that opportunity to define what success is to them after a season of preparation. And the best part is they don’t have to be the first to cross the finish line to etch their name into the record book.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin will be part of a field of 39, and while the objective is to win, it is not mandatory. Technically, those title contenders could crash out on Lap 1, and how NASCAR places them would determine who will be handed the Bill France Trophy.
Phoenix Raceway will be as busy as any track this year, with the possible exception of Daytona International Speedway in February. All three national series will be in action, with practices, qualifying, and races beginning on Friday and culminating with a 312-lap battle — barring overtime — on the 1.022-mile dogleg oval Sunday afternoon.
The Championship 4 drivers come from two organizations, with Larson and Elliott from Hendrick Motorsports, while Truex and Hamlin represent Joe Gibbs Racing.
Elliott is out to do something his Hall of Fame father, 1988 Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, never did - winning a second Cup Series championship and doing it over back-to-back seasons for good measure. Truex has also worn the Cup Series crown, having won in 2017.
NASCAR Cup Series finale: What to watch for
It should come as no surprise that Kyle Larson is the darling of oddsmakers, pegging him as a prohibitive favorite. He more than doubled anyone else’s win total and had one more than the next two drivers — Truex and Alex Bowman — combined. Throw in four victories in his last seven outings, including three straight, and you get the picture. Unfortunately, Phoenix Raceway has not been kind to him.
In 14 starts at the Arizona venue, Larson has an average finish of 11.64 without scoring a victory. Elliott, the Vegas second pick, is only slightly better at 11.18, but his lone win was in the season finale last November, which solidified his championship. Hamlin starts Sunday with a best average finish of 10.78 in 32 starts, and his most recent victory came on November 10, 2019. Truex is at the bottom with an average of 15.39; however, his lone triumph at Phoenix was earlier this year in March.
You can crunch numbers all day long to predict the winner of the race, but for the championship, a P15 will suffice as long as the other three contenders are behind you at the end.
NASCAR Cup Series Championship – Where to Watch and Listen
NOTE: The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying. It will also broadcast the race, as will SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Friday (All times Eastern)
• 4:00-5:00 p.m. – NASCAR Cup Series practice (NBCSN/NBC Sports App)
• 7:00-8:00 p.m. - NASCAR Cup Series qualifying (CNBC/NBC Sports App)
• 12:30 p.m. – NASCAR RaceDay (Fox Sports 1)
• 1:30 p.m. - NASCAR America (NBC/NBC Sports App)
• 2:00 p.m. – Countdown to Green (NBC/NBC Sports App)
• 2:30 p.m. - NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race (NBC/NBC Sports App/Peacock)
Weekend Weather (Via Weather .com)
Friday: Generally sunny. High near 90F. Winds light and variable.
Saturday: Sunny. High around 90F. Winds light and variable.
Sunday: Partly cloudy skies. High 89F. Winds light and variable.
NASCAR Xfinity 500 Odds (From VegasInsider)
+190 Kyle Larson
+350 Chase Elliott
+400 Denny Hamlin
+450 Martin Truex Jr.
+1400 William Byron
Here is the entry list for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship
(Car number, driver, team)
00 Quin Houff (StarCom Racing)
1 Kurt Busch (Chip Ganassi Racing)
2 Brad Keselowski (Team Penske)
3 Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing)
4 Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing)
5 Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports)
6 Ryan Newman (Roush Fenway Racing)
7 Corey Lajoie (Spire Motorsports)
8 Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing)
9 Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports)
10 Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing)
11 Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing)
12 Ryan Blaney (Team Penske)
13 David Starr (MBM)
14 Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing)
15 Garrett Smithley (Rick Ware Racing)
17 Chris Buescher (Roush Fenway Racing)
18 Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing)
19 Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing)
20 Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing)
21 Matt DiBenedetto (Wood Brothers Racing)
22 Joey Logano (Team Penske)
23 Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing)
24 William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports)
34 Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports)
37 Ryan Preece (JTG Daugherty Racing)
38 Anthony Alfredo (Front Row Motorsports)
41 Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing)
42 Ross ChastainChip Ganassi Racing)
43 Erik Jones (Richard Petty Motorsports)
47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing)
48 Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports)
51 Cody Ware (Petty Ware Racing)
52 Josh Bilicki (Rick Ware Racing)
53 Joey Gase (Rick Ware Racing)
66 Timmy Hill (MBM)
77 Justin Haley Spire Motorsports)
78 BJ McLeod (Live Fast Motorsports)
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99 Daniel Suarez (TrackHouse Racing)
Q. Will Kyle Larson win his first Cup Series championship on Sunday?