Not since 2010, the year that Jimmie Johnson captured the last of his record-breaking five consecutive championships, has a NASCAR Cup Series driver repeated as champ. Will Chase Elliott buck the trend on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway? The Hendrick Motorsports driver brings a certain measure of confidence from simply knowing he’s the most recent series champion and first driver to be crowned champ at Phoenix, which began hosting the finale in 2020. And he remembers the days leading up to last year’s championship all too well.
“I think just the experience last year and kind of going through all that helps,” Elliott said. “Not so much with the on-track stuff, but kind of the prep throughout the week and all the obligations and whatnot that are involved in doing that is nice. We have been there, and we know how far we can push ourselves and what we need to do to get prepared. Honestly, we are a simple group. We probably won’t change it a lot and will go out there and try and execute a really nice race. Hopefully, better than the rest.”
Elliott — the sport’s most popular driver — has just two wins this year, compared to the four victories he had going into the 2020 finale. “Super proud of this team,” he said. “I know it hasn’t been super pretty at times, but for us to keep fighting through these playoffs and to get to Phoenix, when you get there, it’s anybody’s game to go out there in that Final Four. So, really proud of this group to make it for a second consecutive year, and being amongst those four cars is a big deal. We’re excited to have a shot. I think we can run with the best of them, and we are looking forward to the opportunity.”