The Phoenix Finale: Max’s NASCAR Cup Championship Predictions

The finale of the 2020 NASCAR Cup season comes this weekend, and with it comes bold predictions from all walks of legitimate sports media. And since legitimate sports media wasn’t available for this project, presents resident NASCAR writers MJBurroughs and MaxMan as they shoot their shot and make their call for what will unfold at the championship race!

The 2020 NASCAR Cup season has come and almost gone, and that only means that it’s championship time, baby! After a hiatus that lasted just as long as the playoffs, the weirdest NASCAR season ever has finally gotten us to the championship race, which is being held at Phoenix International Raceway for the first time. After 10 weeks of playoff races, at tracks ranging from Talladega to the Charlotte Roval, we find ourselves with the four drivers left competing for the title. These four in the chase are Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin. A major name missing from this list is Kevin Harvick. Harvick had a season-leading 9 wins, but a rough round of 8 soured the playoff hopes of the #4 team. 

Joey Logano was the first of four drivers to punch his ticket to Phoenix with a win at Kansas. No one was locked in after Texas due to non-playoff driver Kyle Busch won the race. Heading into Martinsville, Logano was the only driver locked into the final four. Among the drivers looking to throw their hat into the ring were: Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski. These seven drivers battled intensely for final three spots. At the conclusion of the race, Hamlin and Keselowski were locked in on points and Chase Elliott won the race at the Virginia short track, locking him into the championship race for the first time in his career.

Now that we know who’s fighting for the biggest prize in NASCAR (aside from maybe the Daytona 500), who am I picking to become a champion? Well, Joey Logano seems like an obvious choice here, he won at Phoenix at the start of the season, and he knows how to upset the field just like he did in 2018, but alas, he is not my pick to win.

  Denny Hamlin seems like a great choice as well with seven wins in 2020 and a few previous wins at Phoenix, but he’s known to choke during the playoffs (especially when a championship is on the line). Notably in 2014 and 2019; in ‘14, Hamlin spun his tires on a late race restart, causing him to fall back and ultimately finish third in the standings behind Ryan Newman and champion Kevin Harvick. In 2019, an error on the pit crew cost him the title: Hamlin came in for a pit stop and his crew put too much tape on the grill and caused the motor to overheat. Hamlin seems like a legit contender, but I think he going to get bitten in the butt once again. 

Brad Keselowski had an average season, with three wins including the Coca-Cola 600. Keselowski has never won at Phoenix in a cup car, and based on the way the format has played out, (every champion has won the championship race) winning is a must. I do not think Keselowski has it in him this year.

So with those eliminations, we only have one driver left: Chase Elliott. Elliott is only 24 years old and has been a full-time cup driver for 5 years, making the playoffs each year. This season, however, will be his first appearance in the championship 4. Elliott has been good at Phoenix in the past, but has not won at the Arizona circuit. I believe that the Dawsonville, Georgia native will shock NASCAR and win the race and championship. He’s got the momentum coming off the win at Martinsville, so I think Chase Elliott gets his first of many NASCAR Cup championships at Phoenix this Sunday.

Chicken dinner!

Check out Matt’s companion article here!

Follow Max on Twitter for NASCAR content and a window into the development of a young writing career.


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