And then there were four.
Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott will race for the title in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship event at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.
Elliott, the 2020 champion, is the title favorite at +250 at BetMGM. He is ahead of Bell (+325), 2018 champion Logano (+400) and Chastain (+400).
Of the Championship 4 drivers, Logano boasts the most appearances in the title race — five — tied for series-best. His two victories at Phoenix Raceway also are tops among the championship-eligible drivers.
Elliott, on the other hand, won his championship at Phoenix and has that experience in his memory bank, whereas Logano claimed his title when the season finale was held at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kyle Busch is the only active driver with more than one Cup title, having won in 2015 and 2019.
Team owner Rick Hendrick actually has two cars competing for championships — Elliott for the drivers’ title and Kyle Larson for the owners’ crown in the No. 5 Chevrolet.
“I think Sunday could be … just like always, a pit stop, somebody hits the air pressures right, cautions fall at the right time,” Hendrick said. “You just have to run it and see how it ends up.
“But there are four really, really good drivers in that race. You know, it’s just going to be hard to pick a winner in there. Of course, I hope our guys are the ones that win it. But it’s going to be a good show. It’s going to be a hard-fought show.”
That is the race within the race, with every other driver in the field also seeking to end the season in victory lane. This season has been marked by a large number of winners, but the final race has been won by the title-winning driver in every year of the winner-take-all format.
NASCAR CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP
The Place: Phoenix Raceway
The Date: Sunday, Nov. 6, 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $10,542,284
TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)
Chase Elliott, +250
Elliott is also the pre-race favorite at Phoenix, where he won his first championship two years ago and has five top-five finishes in 13 starts. He won the regular-season points title and leads the Cup Series with five victories this season. He has only a pair of top-10s in nine playoff races — a win at Talladega and a runner-up at Bristol.
“Our playoffs hasn’t been great but with this format, it really doesn’t matter now,” he said. “If you’re part of the show, you’re part of the show. And if you have a shot this weekend, you have a shot to change the narrative and write the end of the story however you want.”
Christopher Bell, +325
Bell is seeking to complete off an impressive trifecta after pulling off must-wins in the Round of 12 and Round of 8 elimination races. He has three wins on the season, but no top-fives with an average finish of 17th in five career starts at Phoenix.
“I love Phoenix,” said Bell, who had a win and three top-fives in five starts at the track in the Xfinity series. “It was one of my favorite racetracks. But on the Cup side, you can’t measure a guy’s stats when it’s the final four championship race like Phoenix has been. If you’re not in that group, your only goal is to not interfere with those guys. So, not in the championship, I was really just trying to stay out of the way.”
Joey Logano, +400
Logano has a pair of wins and seven top-fives in 27 starts at Phoenix. He won at Las Vegas during the playoffs and is also still racing for the owner title. With his spot in the Champions 4 secure, Logano’s team has been focusing on Phoenix for several weeks.
“I feel like we’re in a great spot right now,” Logano said. “I feel like that’s the No. 1 driver for the 22 team to win this thing. I think with that mentality and the three weeks that we’ve had since Vegas to really focus in here, it’s going to give us a huge advantage to not only have a good practice plan and set our car up but also execute this race correctly, on top of the experience we’ve got.”
Ross Chastain, +400
The NASCAR world is still buzzing from Chastain’s bold move last Sunday, riding the wall through Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap at Martinsville to steal the final Championship 4 spot from Denny Hamlin. He finished second at Phoenix earlier this season, his best result in eight previous starts.
The Trackhouse Racing driver is arguably the most unlikely of the final four to reach this point.
“If I wasn’t driving this car, I would be farming,” he said. “And you know what, I would be watching these races on the weekend. I would be a fan. I am a fan. And this team, this is a an easy team to root for as a fan.”
Kyle Larson, +1200
Elliott’s teammate, Larson qualified his car for the team owner’s championship. That means the possibility exists that Hendrick Motorsports could win the driver and team championship, but with different drivers.
“The best thing that could happen is one of us wins the race and the other runs second and you can check both boxes and we all go home happy,” Elliott said. “That would be choice number one for me, and I think that’s feasible.”