Chase Elliott starts from the pole as he chases a first career NASCAR Cup title
The Season Finale 500 will wrap up NASCAR's crazy 2020 and crown its Cup Series champion on Sunday, Nov. 8. For the first time, the final race will be held at one-mile Phoenix Raceway out in the desert, a flat track that's had a $178 million makeover in recent years.
It's created a place where restarts are king as the start/finish line was moved from what was the frontstretch to the backstretch. Now, they begin in a tri-oval-like area where cars can spread out seven- or eight-wide trying to find some grip on the asphalt. The cars will use the higher-horsepower package with hopes for a more competitive finale than what we've seen at Homestead-Miami Speedway in recent years.
Four drivers remain eligible to capture the series title: Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano. Whoever finishes highest among the quartet is the 2020 Cup champion. (Stage points cannot be earned by those drivers during Sunday's race.) Kevin Harvick, who dominated the regular season, is ineligible after falling outside the top four following last weekend's finish at Martinsville Speedway.
Each of the championship-eligible drivers have an instant advantage over the rest of the field. NASCAR's COVID-19 protocols eliminate all on-track practice or qualifying; instead, the grid is set according to the metrics below.
25% of the metric will be the driver's finishing position from the previous race.
25% of the metric will be the owner's finishing position from the previous race.
35% of the metric will be the owner's current position in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings.
15% of the metric will be their fastest lap during the previous race.
All drivers remaining in championship contention (4) automatically start ahead of all others.
Elliott, last week's winner, will start on the pole while Logano, Keselowski and Hamlin are right behind him. It's the first time a Hendrick Motorsports driver has made it to the final round of the championship since Jimmie Johnson in 2016.
Thirty-nine teams have made the trip to Phoenix for 40 spots on the grid, meaning everyone who entered will start the race. Just three "open" teams will attempt the finale, battling for extra money to be the best-finishing organization among them in owner points. (The winner gets a bonus at the end of the year).
These entries are Gaunt Brothers Racing (No. 96), where Daniel Suarez will make his final start with the team; MBM Motorsports (No. 66), running their Toyota driven by Timmy Hill; and Tommy Baldwin Racing (No. 7), continuing their part-time schedule but switching to driver Garrett Smithley.
1. Chase Elliott (P)
2. Joey Logano (P)
3. Brad Keselowski (P)
4. Denny Hamlin (P)
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Alex Bowman
7. Kurt Busch
8. Kyle Busch
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Aric Almirola
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Matt DiBenedetto
13. Martin Truex Jr.
14. Erik Jones
15. Cole Custer (R)
16. Matt Kenseth
17. Christopher Bell (R)
18. Austin Dillon
19. Ryan Newman
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21. Tyler Reddick (R)
22. Ty Dillon
23. Bubba Wallace
24. Ryan Preece
25. William Byron
26. Jimmie Johnson
27. John Hunter Nemechek (R)
28. Corey LaJoie
29. Michael McDowell
30. Daniel Suarez
31. Chris Buescher
32. JJ Yeley (i)
33. Timmy Hill (i)
34. Quin Houff (R)
35. Brennan Poole (R)
36. James Davison
37. Joey Gase (i)
38. Josh Bilicki (i)
39. Garrett Smithley (i)
(P) – Playoff Driver
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Chase Elliott (1st) starts from the pole and makes his first NASCAR Championship 4 appearance. He's also the first Chevrolet driver to make it since Jimmie Johnson in 2016. The 24-year-old is seeking his first Cup title and second overall in NASCAR (he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2014).
- Joey Logano (2nd) is the best-qualifying Ford driver. He's making his fourth Championship 4 appearance in seven years and is seeking a second career Cup title. (He last won it in 2018).
- Brad Keselowski (3rd) is making his first Championship 4 appearance since 2017. He's seeking his first Cup title under this format and second overall (2012).
- Denny Hamlin (4th) is making his second straight Championship 4 appearance. The 39-year-old is still seeking his first Cup title; only Junior Johnson has more wins than Hamlin's 44 without a championship on the resume.
- Clint Bowyer (9th) is making his final Cup start with Stewart-Haas Racing and their No. 14 Ford. Bowyer plans to retire in 2021 and become an analyst in the FOX NASCAR broadcast booth.
- Kevin Harvick (11th) is seeking the first 10-win season of his Cup career. He is ineligible to win the 2020 championship.
- Cole Custer (15th) is the highest-qualifying freshman and will become the 2020 Cup Series Rookie of the Year.
- Matt Kenseth (16th) is making his final Cup start behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, has 39 career wins in 696 Cup starts.
- Christopher Bell (17th) will make the final start for Leavine Family Racing's No. 95 Toyota. The team is shutting down after the season while Bell moves to Joe Gibbs Racing.
- Ty Dillon (22nd) will make the final start for Germain Racing's No. 13 after over a decade of Cup Series competition. Dillon's future for 2021 remains unknown.
- William Byron (25th) will start his final race with seven-time championship crew chief Chad Knaus. Knaus has been promoted at Hendrick Motorsports to vice president of competition and will be leaving the pit box for good after this event.
- Jimmie Johnson (26th) will be making his final Cup start as a full-time driver with Hendrick Motorsports. The seven-time Cup champion has 83 wins in 685 Cup starts.
- Josh Bilicki (38th) moves into the No. 77 of Spire Motorsports for the finale. Bilicki has mostly driven for Tommy Baldwin Racing's No. 7 this season.
- Garrett Smithley (39th) moves to TBR and will drive their No. 7 at Phoenix.
NASCAR RACE BREAKDOWN
Race: Season Finale 500
Track: Phoenix Raceway (Avondale, Ariz.)
Date: Sunday, Nov. 8
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 laps (312 miles)
Stage 1: 75 Laps
Stage 2: 115 Laps
Final Stage: 122 Laps
Clint Bowyer reflects on his NASCAR career as he prepares to retire following Sunday's event at Phoenix Raceway. Then, hosts Dustin Albino and Mike Neff gives their championship picks as the 2020 NASCAR season comes to a close this weekend.