NASCAR’s playoffs offered the most dramatic race of the season last weekend at Martinsville in the campaign’s penultimate competition, with Chase Elliott booking a spot in the championship and Kevin Harvick suffering a shock elimination.
While some have criticized the rules system that enabled Harvick’s ouster despite the veteran winning a circuit-best nine races in 2020, the tension in final laps was undeniable.
A points reset for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix could bring similar fireworks, even if it again means a driver without the breadth of success throughout the year of his rivals gets crowned.
NASCAR’s rules are usually complicated, but this weekend is actually fairly straightforward. It’s essentially a winner-take-all final that starts with a level playing field for all four contenders.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from the Championship 4 race, including the full rules, participants and expected start time.
What are the rules of NASCAR’s championship race at Phoenix?
The race is separated into three stages and totals 312 laps. The best finisher among the Championship 4 drivers wins the Cup Series title (points accumulated throughout the season no longer matter).
Note that if the race winner is not one of the playoff contenders, then the contender who is closest to the top is crowned champion.
Who is in NASCAR’s Championship 4?
The drivers in the Championship 4 are Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. Logano, who won the Cup Series in 2018, was the only one who could be comfortable this past Sunday at Martinsville. He had already clinched a title berth two weeks prior to the competition. The others were in danger of being wiped out until the final laps of the elimination race.
How did they get there?
Denny Hamlin always seemed destined to reach Phoenix as a title contender given his scalding start to 2020, which included a Daytona 500 triumph to begin the campaign and another victory at Darlington. He didn’t perform to his standard in the Round of 8, but he’d built enough of a points cushion to withstand three finishes outside the top eight.
Joey Logano won the first race of the Round of 8 at Kansas to clinch automatic advancement to Phoenix. He would have been on the bubble had he not pulled off that aero package assisted victory.
Brad Keselowski benefitted most from Kevin Harvick’s Martinsville meltdown, picking up crucial stage points Harvick missed to advance ahead of him despite entering the race down 17 points.
Chase Elliott clinched with his clutch win last weekend at Martinsville, a result he needed to get his first Cup Series title shot.
When is the NASCAR championship?
The NASCAR final four title race is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. ET.
Where is the 2020 NASCAR championship?
This year’s event is being held at Phoenix Raceway. It’s the first time the venue is hosting a championship race.
There will be limited-capacity attendance for the competition.
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