All the sweat, the tears, the heart-warming pains and the back breaking gains have all culminated to this one last shot for the Championship 4 contenders to vie for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Phoenix Raceway.
Here’s an in-depth look at the four contenders, starting with Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)…
Elliott By The Numbers:
1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series Championships (2020).
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1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series wins at Phoenix Raceway (2020).
2 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2020, ‘21).
2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021.
4 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
4.7 – Average starting position at Phoenix Raceway.
6 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.
7 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
8.2 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.
11.1 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
11.5 – Average finishing position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.
14 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2021 season.
16.0 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.
20 – Number of top-10 finishes in the first 35 races of 2021 season.
22 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.
101.5 – Season-to-date driver rating – third-best among active drivers in 2021.
107.1 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – second-best among active drivers.
402 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
858 – Total number of laps led in the 2021 season.
8,738 – Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (98.3%).
Elliott has chance to become 11th different driver all-time to win back-to-back Cup titles
Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott has the opportunity this Sunday (Nov. 7) in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to become the 11th different driver in series history to win back-to-back titles; joining Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Joe Weatherly and Buck Baker. Elliott would be the first driver to win consecutive championships since Jimmie Johnson’s record five straight titles from 2006-2010.
|Drivers with Multiple Championships (1949-2020)|
|Rank||No. of Titles||Driver||Years|
|1||7||Jimmie Johnson||2016, ‘13, ’10, ‘09, ‘08, ‘07, ‘06|
|Dale Earnhardt||1994, ’93, ‘91, ‘90, ‘87, ‘86, ‘80|
|Richard Petty||1979, ‘75, ‘74, ‘72, ‘71, ‘67, ‘64|
|4||4||Jeff Gordon||2001, ‘98, ‘97, ‘95|
|5||3||Darrell Waltrip||1985, ‘82, ‘81|
|Cale Yarborough||1978, ‘77, ‘76|
|David Pearson||1969, ‘68, ‘66|
|Lee Petty||1959, ‘58, ‘54|
|Tony Stewart||2011, ‘05, ‘02|
|10||2||Kyle Busch||2019, ’15|
|Terry Labonte||1996, ‘84|
|Ned Jarrett||1965, ‘61|
|Joe Weatherly||1963, ‘62|
|Buck Baker||1957, ‘56|
|Tim Flock||1955, ‘52|
|Herb Thomas||1953, ‘51|
|* 16 total multiple NASCAR Cup Series champions|
Elliott would also become the 17th driver all-time in the series with multiple championships and just the second active driver with more than one title, joining Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).
Family Affair: Chase Elliott keeps piling on the Elliott racing legacy
NASCAR was built by hard working and dedicated families like the Frances, Pettys, Jarretts and Earnhardts, and this weekend Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott has the chance to build on his family’s legacy by adding another championship to the family name in the highest form of stock car racing – the NASCAR Cup Series.
If Elliott accomplishes the feat the Elliotts (Bill: 1988 and Chase: 2020) would join the Pettys (Lee: 1954, 1958, 1959 and Richard: 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979), and the Jarretts (Ned: 1961, 1965 and Dale: 1999) as just the third father-son combo to win multiple NASCAR Cup Series titles.
Elliott’s talent was apparent early on in his career. The Dawsonville, Georgia native jumped in the national NASCAR scene in 2013 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on a part-time basis, making nine starts and winning at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in just his sixth start. He then climbed up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsport and became the first rookie in series history to win the series championship in 2014. He ran one more season in Xfinity, finishing runner-up in the points in 2015 before moving up to the NASCAR Cup Series fulltime in 2016 with Hendrick Motorsports.
Elliott has qualified for the Playoffs all six seasons he has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, and this is the second time he has earned a spot in the Championship 4 Round (2020, 2021). Since running fulltime in the series, Elliott has made 220 starts putting up 13 wins, 73 top fives and 116 top 10s.
Mr. ‘Most Popular’ is looking to add to his championship resume
Embraced by the overwhelming cheers in his favor by the fans at the race track, there is no doubt Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott is the NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular driver. The year-end award he has taken home for that special distinction the last three seasons is just confirmation on top of the songs of fans singing his praises on a weekly basis.
The reigning 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Elliott, has answered his title winning season with quite the comparative performance heading into Phoenix Raceway this weekend. Elliott was strong out of the gate this season nearly winning the Daytona 500 (finished runner-up) and held the momentum throughout the regular season never falling out of the top 10 in points. He grabbed two wins during the regular season, at Circuit of The Americas and Road America.
Elliott entered the 2021 Playoffs as the 10th seed with 21 Playoff points to his credit.
Unfortunately, a late race incident with Christopher Bell at Darlington to open the 2021 Playoffs relegated him to a 31st-place finish to open the postseason, but Elliott was quick to rebound, finishing fourth-place at Richmond and had earned enough points following a 25th-place finish at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12.
Elliott reversed course at the start of the next round, finishing runner-up at Las Vegas but found his momentum slowed at Talladega with an 18th-place finish. He was able to secure his spot in the Round of 8 with a 12th-place finish at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
Elliott then turned up the wick and finished seventh at Texas and runner-up at Kansas in the Playoffs Round of 8. As a result, Elliott was 34 points up on the Championship 4 cutoff heading into the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway. Mr. ‘Most Popular’ then dominated the first two stages at Martinsville clinching his spot in the Championship 4 Round for the second time in his career.
Through 35 races this season Chase Elliott has put up two wins, 14 top fives and 20 top 10s. He has led 858 laps and has an average finish of 11.5. He also has the third-best season-to-date driver rating (101.5) on the year.
Elliott’s prowess in the Valley of the Sun
For just the second time in NASCAR Cup Series history, Phoenix Raceway will host the season finale race and set the stage for the Championship 4 to battle it out for the NASCAR Cup Series title. And the recent change could not have come at a better time for Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, who has performed much better at Phoenix than the previous season finale venue Homestead-Miami Speedway; including winning the championship race last season and taking the title.
Elliott has made 11 series starts at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, posting one win (2020), four top fives, seven top 10s and a pole. His average finish at Phoenix is a strong 11.2, fourth-best in the series and third-best among the 2021 Championship 4.
Elliott is also near the top of the charts in several pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 8.709, second-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 107.1, second-best, 306 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best and 2,917 Laps in the Top 15 (84.5%), 12th-most.
Earlier this season at Phoenix, he started sixth and finished fifth.
Crew Chief Corner: Alan Gustafson
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Hendrick Motorsport’s crew chief in 2005, Alan Gustafson has proven that he is one of the best in the sport. Now the 2020 series crew chief champion has the chance to become the 11th different crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series to win back-to-back titles and the 16th to win multiple titles all-time. If Gustafson and the No. 9 team pull off consecutive titles in the NASCAR Cup Series, he would join fellow crew chiefs Dale Inman, Chad Knaus, Kirk Shelmerdine, Ray Evernham, Bud Moore, Lee Petty, Andy Petree, Herb Nab, Jake Elder and Carl Kiekhaefer in accomplishing the feat.
|Crew Chiefs with Multiple Championships (1949-2020)|
|Rank||No. of Titles||Crew Chiefs||Years|
|1||8||Dale Inman||1964, ’67, ’71, ’72, ’74, ’75, ’79, ’84|
|2||7||Chad Knaus||2006, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’13, ’16|
|3||4||Kirk Shelmerdine||1986, ’87, ’90, ’91|
|4||3||Ray Evernham||1995, ’97, ’98|
|Bud Moore||1957, ’62, ’63|
|Lee Petty||1954, ’58, ’59|
|7||2||Adam Stevens||2019, ’15|
|Greg Zipadelli||2002, ’05|
|Andy Petree||1993, ’94|
|Jeff Hammond||1982, ’85|
|Tim Brewer||1978, ’81|
|Herb Nab||1976, ’77|
|Jake Elder||1968, ’69|
|Carl Kiekhaefer||1955, ’56|
|Smokey Yunick||1951, ’53|
|* 15 total multiple NASCAR Cup Series Crew Chief champions|
During his 17 seasons of full-time competition, Gustafson has worked with five different drivers: Kyle Busch (2005-2007), Casey Mears (2008), Mark Martin (2009, 2010), Jeff Gordon (2011-2015) and Chase Elliott (2016-Present). And during those 17 seasons he led his drivers to 14 Playoff appearances and to wins in 13 of the 17 seasons. This weekend at Phoenix will mark his third appearance in the Championship 4 Round, his first appearance was with NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in 2015 when they finished the season third in points.
The Elliott-Gustafson pair has combined for the following achievements in 215 NASCAR Cup Series races together since 2016:
- 13 wins
- 73 top fives
- 116 top 10s
- 3,949 laps led
- 9 poles
- One NASCAR Cup Series Championship (2020)
- Two NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearances (2020, 2021)
- Six consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2016-2021)
The two will look to capture their second NASCAR Cup Series championship together this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Last season, Gustafson became the 41st different crew chief in the series with a championship.
Adding to the historic legacy of Hendrick Motorsports
When it comes to winning titles in the NASCAR Cup Series, no organization does it better than Hendrick Motorsports with their series leading 13 championships among four drivers – Chase Elliott (2020), Jimmie Johnson (2016, ’13, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06), NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (2001, ’98, ’97, ’95) and Terry Labonte (1996).
Overall Hendrick Motorsports has 16 NASCAR national series owner championships, the all-time record in NASCAR (13 in Cup and three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – 1997, 1999, 2001).
And to boot, Hendrick Motorsports was the first organization in the series history to win four straight, from 1995-98 (Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1997-98; Terry Labonte 1996) and then upped their record in the series with five straight, from 2006-2010 (Jimmie Johnson). Hendrick Motorsports has won 13 of the last 26 NASCAR Cup Series championships (1995-2020), putting the team’s title-winning percentage during that span at 50% – series-best.
But the 2021 season has been extra special with what the Hendrick Motorsports organization has been able accomplish. Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 16 NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021; Hendrick Motorsports’ second-most in a single season and third-most by any team in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972-Present). 2021 is the organization’s 36th straight season with a victory; longest-ever streak by a team in the series and its 37th season overall with a win; the most-ever by a team in the series. Plus, Hendrick Motorsports swept first and second in seven races this season; tied for the second-most all-time and most by a team in NASCAR’s Modern Era. They also became one of two teams in Cup Series history to finish 1-2 in four straight races (between Dover and Sonoma). And to top all of that, the organization became the all-time wins leader in the NASCAR Cup Series with 279 total Cup wins – lead all other teams by 11 victories. Kyle Larson’s win in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway broke the all-time record previously held by Petty Enterprises (268 wins).
The Hendrick Motorsports foursome of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman also became the only team in NASCAR’s Modern Era to win six straight races (between Dover and Pocono) and
the only team in Cup history to have all four Cup cars entered in a race sweep the top-four finishes positions (Dover). They also became the first team in history with four winners under age 30 in a single season.
This season Hendrick Motorsports led a combined 3,918 laps; fifth-most by any team in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972)-Present); 100 laps led away from a new Hendrick Motorsports team record (4,017 in 2009). Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.
Hendrick Motorsports 2021 dominance doesn’t end there, they also posted 32 finishes inside the top two; currently tied with Joe Gibbs Racing (2019) for the most in the Modern Era (since 1972), scored 81 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (84 in 2007, 82 in 2012), posted 53 top-five finishes; the team’s second-most (57 in 2007) and won 27 stages; had only won 33 prior to 2021.
Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination-style format in 2014, the 2021 season is the first time Hendrick Motorsports has placed two drivers in the Championship 4 Round (Elliott, Larson). Impressively, Hendrick Motorsports has won at least one Playoff race in each of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 52 postseason wins, most all-time.
Chase Elliott can add to the legacy of Hendrick Motorsports this weekend by winning the title and extending the organization’s record in series championships. In total, 13 different organizations have won at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Hendrick Motorsports with 11 victories.