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NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race Preview and Prediction

The final NASCAR national touring race of the season takes place this Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway. The NASCAR Cup Series will crown its 2021 season champion this weekend. Just like in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race, the highest finisher of the Championship 4 drivers will be awarded the title. 312 miles remain to determine who will be on the stage lifting the championship trophy. It’s shaping up as a heavyweight fight between four drivers who have been at the top of the sport all season long. Who will get the job done?

The following article breaks down the four championship competitors and offers up a Cup Series race prediction to help set the stage for the last of three NASCAR title races on tap for this weekend.

Kyle Larson NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race Phoenix Raceway
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Contenders and Preview

Kyle Larson | No. 5, Hendrick Motorsports

The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has been dominant in what started out as a comeback season. Kyle Larson lost his ride last year due to an off-track issue, but now he is in ultra-powerful Hendrick Motorsports equipment. Larson has had the best season of his career and one for the NASCAR history books at that. He has piled up nine wins on the year, including four victories in the NASCAR Playoffs. He has also amassed 19 top-5s and a whopping 25 top-10s, proof that he has been running strong consistently even when he isn’t parking it in victory lane.

While he has never won at Phoenix Raceway, Larson actually has the best average finish of the Championship 4 drivers at the one-mile oval. He is the NASCAR betting favorite for a reason, just as he has been much of the year. With a savvy crew chief by his side in Cliff Daniels, Larson is going to be very tough to beat on Sunday.

Chase Elliott NASCAR Cup Series Championship prediction race
Chase Elliott (Credit: Getty Images)

Chase Elliott | No. 9, Hendrick Motorsports

The defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion is back to defend his crown. Whether fans believe it is controversial that Chase Elliott made it to the Championship 4 or not, the No. 9 team has been steady throughout the playoffs and once again will compete for the title. Elliott has had a bit of a down year statistically when compared to that of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson. Both of Elliott’s two wins this season came on road courses at COTA and Road America. He has been consistently finishing strong despite the lack of victories though. Elliott has compiled 14 top-5s and 20 top-10s thus far.

As the defending champion, Elliott certainly knows what it takes to get the job done in a high-pressure spot. His title-clinching victory came at this same race track a year ago. Elliott has an outside chance of getting it done on Sunday.

Denny Hamlin NASCAR Championship
Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin | No. 11, Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin has certainly made no friends on his way to the Championship 4. He pointed his way into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs despite failing to notch a single win during the regular season. His consistency was incredible though as he battled Kyle Larson for the regular-season points title right down to the final race at Daytona. Hamlin won the opening race in both the playoffs’ Round of 16 at Darlington and Round of 12 at Las Vegas. He survived some drama at Martinsville Speedway last weekend to advance to the Championship 4.

Along with his wins, Hamlin has scored has 18 top-5s and 24 top-10s this year. The No. 11 Toyota is probably the one that fans do not want to win the title this weekend. Can the resident villain of the Championship 4 finally get it done and win his first career NASCAR Cup Series Championship?

Martin Truex Jr NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race
Credit: Getty Images

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 19, Joe Gibbs Racing

Rounding out the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 is the underdog. It’s admittedly weird to say that Martin Truex Jr. is ever an underdog. After all, he was the first driver to get to three wins this season and was at one point the betting favorite in the championship futures market. However, he barely skirted by during the playoffs to make the Championship 4. Somehow, the No. 19 team made it through and now returns to the track where they won in impressive fashion back in the spring. One of his four wins was the Instacart 500 here at Phoenix Raceway. However, that came all the way back in March.

Truex Jr. does have plenty of experience having won a NASCAR Championship under this same format back in 2017 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing affiliate, Furniture Row Racing. Can he get it done again and surprise the NASCAR world on Sunday?

Denny Hamlin
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Prediction

Well, after a thrilling 2021 season, it comes down to this. This year’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race is tough to predict because any one of these guys is capable of lifting the trophy. All four have the talent as drivers and also will be operating high-powered equipment. Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have been the class of the Cup Series field all season long.

While Kyle Larson has been the most dominant driver of all, he has yet to win at Phoenix Raceway in his career. It’s also tough to envision Chase Elliott going back-to-back. Martin Truex Jr. has not done well in the return visit to oval tracks where he won the first time around this season. Therefore, Denny Hamlin gets the job done and captures the NASCAR Cup Series title for the first time in his career.


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