For the third consecutive season, the NASCAR Cup Series season concluded with its championship race at Phoenix Raceway. And, for the third year in a row, the Cup Series Champion won the winner-take-all season finale en route to the title. Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott all had different routes to the Championship 4, but it seemed like Logano was destined to secure his second championship.
Prior to the race start, Joe Gibbs Racing announced the death of Coy Gibbs. The team stated that Gibbs passed away overnight in his sleep at the age of 49. Coy Gibbs, son of team owner Joe Gibbs, was the Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer for Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs’ sudden death was a shock to many across the garage especially after his son Ty Gibbs won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship on Saturday. Ty Gibbs understandably didn’t compete in the Cup Series finale as scheduled.
JGR also had a driver in the Championship 4, Christopher Bell. Bell seemed to be in the best position to dislodge Logano from his stranglehold on the lead in the title fight within the race until the final caution. However, during the final rounds of pitstops, Bell’s rear tire changer got his finger stuck between the left rear tire’s spindle and nut. The lengthy stop plummeted Bell down the order to 15th, taking him out of contention.
Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott, the regular season champion, fought through the playoffs to reach the Championship 4. Though, Elliott wouldn’t see the checkered flag on the race’s lead lap. During a restart, Elliott dove onto the apron to shortcut the dogleg and pull alongside the car ahead. Trackhouse’s Ross Chastain did the same behind Elliott. Chastain didn’t allow Elliott more space. Elliott cut across Chastain’s nose and was pitched into a spin directly into the inside wall.
Ross Chastain was left as the only other driver to fight Penske’s Joey Logano. Chastain was able to keep within arm’s length of the 2018 Cup Series Champion but finished third. Penske finished 1-2, with Joey Logano first and Ryan Blaney second. There was only a single lap of the race in Phoenix where Logano was the provisional champion. With this title win, Joey Logano has become Ford’s first multi-time Cup Series Champion since David Pearson in 1968.
The inaugural season with the NextGen Cup Series car had its highs and lows. There has been thrilling on-track action and a record-tying number of different race winners. However, the new car has been plagued with persistent technical and safety issues. Hopefully, NASCAR can iron out the problems with a car that has been able to improve the on-track racing product drastically.