The 2020 season comes down to this. The stage is set, and four drivers will contend for the championship and prestigious Bill France Cup this Sunday in the Season Finale 500 for the first time at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
That foursome, comprised of Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, have accounted for 18 victories in the 35 races leading up to Sunday’s finale.
Two of the four drivers are former champions – Keselowski (2012) and Logano (2018) – with Hamlin and Elliott looking for their first Cup titles.
Here’s an in-depth look at the championship contenders in 2020:
Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
Elliott By The Numbers:
1 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2020).
2 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
4 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2020.
5 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
9.2 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2020 season.
9.6 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2020 Playoffs.
10 – Number of stage wins during the 2020 season.
12.0 – Average finishing position during the 2020 season.
13.0 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
14 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2020 season.
21 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2020 season.
27 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2020.
102.3 – Season-to-date driver rating – second-best among active drivers.
105.3 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – second-best among active drivers.
249 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
1,094 – Total number of laps led in the 2020 season.
9,229 – Total number of laps completed in the 2020 season (96.1%).
Elliott has chance to join his father as a NASCAR Cup Series champion
NASCAR has been built by hard working and dedicated families like the Frances, Pettys, Jarretts, Earnhardts and this weekend Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott has the chance to add to his family’s legacy and join his NASCAR Hall of Fame father Bill Elliott (1988) as a champion in the highest form of stock car racing – the NASCAR Cup Series.
If Elliott accomplishes the feat the Elliotts (Bill: 1988) 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 the NASCAR Cup Series title.
Elliott’s talent was apparent early in his career. The Georgia native jumped in the national NASCAR scene in 2013 in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series on a part-time basis, making nine starts and winning at Canadian Tire 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. Elliott has qualified for the Playoffs all five seasons he has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, but this is the first one in which he has a clear shot at the title. Since running fulltime in the series, Elliott has put up 10 wins, 58 top fives and 95 top 10s.
Mr. ‘Most Popular’ is looking to cap off a career season
Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott is having a career year and not only because he made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s Championship 4 round for the first time, but also because he has racked up four wins on the season – also a career first.
The reigning series Most Popular Driver, Elliott had a slow start to the 2020 season with three finishes outside the top-15 in the first six races, but all that changed when he got to Charlotte. Elliott was strong in both Charlotte oval races, leading 38 laps in the first event and finishing runner-up, but followed that up in the next race by leading 28 laps and winning his first event of the season. The 24-year old then rallied off 10 top-10 finishes and another win at the Charlotte ROVAL to finish out the regular season.
Elliott entered the 2020 Playoffs as the fifth seed with 20 Playoff points to his credit.
Unfortunately, an incident with Martin Truex Jr. for the lead at Darlington relegated him to a 20th-place finish to open the postseason, but Elliott was quick to rebound, finishing fifth at Richmond and seventh at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12. Again, Elliott struggled at the start of the next round, finishing 22nd at Las Vegas but found his momentum at Talladega with a fifth-place finish and secured his spot in the Round of 8 with a win at the Charlotte ROVAL.
Elliott then finished sixth at Kansas and slipped to a 20th-place finish at Texas in the Round of 8. As a result, Elliott was in a precarious position 25 points behind the Championship 4 cutoff heading into the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway. But the rising star answered the call and won at Martinsville Speedway, becoming the third driver since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014 to win his way into the Championship 4 round; joining Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Denny Hamlin in 2019. His previous best finish in the final championship standings was fifth in 2017.
Through 35 races this season Chase Elliott has put up four wins, 14 top fives and 21 top 10s. He has led 1,094 laps and has an average finish of 12.0. He also has the second-best season-to-date driver rating (105.3) on the year.
Elliott’s prowess in the Valley of the Sun
For the first time in 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.
Elliott has made nine starts at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, posting two top fives, five top 10s and a pole. His average finish at Phoenix is a strong 13.0, sixth-best in the series and second-best in the Championship 4 behind Denny Hamlin’s 11.3. Elliott is also near the top of the charts in several pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 8.930, second-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 105.3, second-best, 243 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best and 2,418 Laps in the Top 15 (85.5%), 13th-most. He started from the pole and finished seventh at Phoenix earlier this season.
Crew Chief Corner: Adam Gustafson
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Hendrick Motorsport’s crew chief in 2005, Adam Gustafson has shown that he is one of the best in the sport. During his 16 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 16 seasons he led his drivers to 13 Playoff appearances and to wins in 12 of the seasons. This weekend at Phoenix will mark his second appearance in the Championship 4, his first appearance was with NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in 2015, they finished the season third in points.
The Elliott-Gustafson pair has combined for the following achievements in 176 NASCAR Cup Series races together since 2016:
- 10 wins
- 57 top fives
- 94 top 10s
- 2,938 laps led
- 9 poles
- One NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearance (2020)
- Five consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2016-2020)
The two will look to capture their first NASCAR Cup Series championship together this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. If they accomplish the feat, Gustafson will become 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 12 championships among three drivers – 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 15 NASCAR national series owner championships, the all-time record in NASCAR.
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 12 of the last 25 NASCAR Cup Series championships (1995-2019), putting the team’s title-winning percentage during that span at 48% – series-best.
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 10 victories.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
Hamlin By The Numbers:
2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series career wins at Phoenix Raceway (2012, 2019).
3 – Number of appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s Championship 4 (2014, ’19 ‘20)
7 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins during the 2020 season.
11 – Number of stage wins during the 2020 season.
9.0 – Average starting position for the first 35 races of the 2020 season.
9.5 – Average finishing position for the first 35 races of the 2020 season.
10.2 – Average starting position at Phoenix Raceway.
11.1 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2020 Playoffs.
11.3 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
13 – Number of career top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
17 – Number of career top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
17 – Number of top-five finishes during the 2020 season.
20 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2020 season.
54 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2020, most among Champ 4.
97.7 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway, fifth-best among active drivers.
100.3 – Season-to-date driver rating, fourth-best among active drivers.
821 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
1,083 – Total number of laps led in the 2020 season.
9,301 – Total number of laps completed in the 2020 season (99.3%).
Third time might be the charm for Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin burst on the NASCAR Cup Series scene fulltime in 2006, and ever since he has been a force in the series, year-in and year-out. The 39-year old has competed in the series for 15 full-time seasons, qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 14 of them. This season will mark the third time the Virginian has made the Championship 4 round (2014, 2019, 2020) and Hamlin is hoping this time is the year he gets his first title. If Hamlin were to accomplish the feat this weekend, he would also become the first NASCAR Cup Series driver from Virginia to win a championship.
In 2014 he qualified for the final round in the Playoffs, but finished seventh in the season finale at Homestead-Miami and ultimately third in the championship standings. Last season he advanced to Championship 4 for second time in his career, but a tough call on pit road in the season finale was costly for Hamlin and he finished the race in 10th and ultimately fourth in the final championship standings.
Hamlin’s best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings came in 2010 when he finished runner-up in the points behind Jimmie Johnson.
Hamlin kicked off 2020 with his third victory in the Daytona 500, locking himself into the Playoffs in the opening week of the schedule. Since then, Hamlin has been one of the best in the series this year. In 35 starts, he has posted seven wins, 17 top fives and 20 top 10s. His average finish this season is a stout 9.5.
The path to Phoenix was a rocky one for Hamlin
The Joe Gibbs Racing standout, Denny Hamlin, had to bank on his series leading 54 Playoff points a few times this postseason, but despite the slow start he has advanced to the Championship 4.
Hamlin stumbled out of the gate this Playoffs finishing 13th (Darlington), 12th (Richmond) and 31st (Bristol) in the Round of 16. It wasn’t until the Round of 12 did he start to step it up, when he finished third at Las Vegas and won at Talladega to guarantee his spot in the Round of 8. He finished the Round of 12 with a 15th-place finish at the Charlotte ROVAL. In the Round of 8, Hamlin was methodical with his strategy and pointed his way into the Championship 4 by finishing 15th (Kansas), ninth (Texas) and 11th (Martinsville).
Denny Hamlin is the only driver from last season’s Championship 4 (Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick) to make it back to the final round in 2020. Hamlin and Joey Logano are the only two remaining title contenders with previous Championship 4 experience. Brad Keselowski won his series title in 2012 prior to the inception of the elimination-style Playoff format in 2014 and Elliott will be making his Championship 4 debut this weekend.
Hamlin’s previous performance in cactus country
For the first time in series history Phoenix Raceway will host the season finale race and set the stage for the Championship 4 to compete for the NASCAR Cup Series title. And the change in venue is a welcome one for Denny Hamlin.
The one-mile Phoenix Raceway is one of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s best tracks in the NASCAR Cup Series, having made 30 series starts collecting two wins (2012, 2019), 13 top fives, 17 top 10s and two poles. His average finish at Phoenix is 11.267, fifth-best in the series and best among the Championship 4. He also ranks in the top 10 in several key pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 11.487, sixth-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 97.7, fifth-best, 453 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best and 6,759 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2), fifth-most. He started third and finished 20th in the Phoenix Cup race earlier this season.
Crew Chief Corner: Chris Gabehart
The powerful duo of driver Denny Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart are the only team from last season’s Championship 4 to make it in this season’s, proving they are a force to be reckoned with.
Since joining forces with Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team, Gabehart has led the crew to 13 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories (2019, 2020), two Playoff appearances and two Championship 4 appearances (2019, 2020).
The Hamlin-Gabehart pair has combined for the following achievements in 68 NASCAR Cup Series races together since 2017:
- 13 wins
- 35 top fives
- 43 top 10s
- 1,874 laps led
- 3 poles
- Two consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearances (2019, 2020)
- Two consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2019, 2020)
Under Gabehart’s leadership this season, Hamlin has earned 15 top fives, 18 top 10s and has hoisted the most trophies (seven) since a career best eight-win year in 2010.
If Hamlin and Gabehart win the championship this season, Gabehart will become the 41st different crew chief in the series to win a championship.
Continuing Joe Gibbs Racing’s excellence
Denny Hamlin earned his first NASCAR Cup Series pole position at Phoenix in 2005 in only his sixth career start. The following year he marked his fulltime debut with Joe Gibbs Racing and he immediately started things on the right foot, winning the 2006 Daytona Speedweeks season-opening exhibition event, the Budweiser Shootout, in his first try. Since then Hamlin has earned 44 Cup points-race victories – picking up his third Daytona 500 win this February. Now the 39-year old is looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization it’s sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship; joining Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Team Penske Ford)
Keselowski By The Numbers:
2 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2017, 2020).
6 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
4 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2020
7 – Number of stage wins during the 2020 season.
7.7 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2020 season.
10 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
10.3 – Average finishing position during the 2020 season.
12 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2020 season.
12.1 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2020 Playoffs.
13.5 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
23 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2020 season.
35 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2020.
93.8 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – seventh-best among active drivers.
99.4 – Season-to-date driver rating – sixth-best among active drivers.
248 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
936 – Total number of laps led in the 2020 season.
9,427 – Total number of laps completed in the 2020 season (98.2%).
Keselowski looks to become third active multi-time Cup champion
Over the last two decades, winning multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships has been rare, only three drivers have accomplished the feat from 2000 to 2019 – seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson (2006-2010, 2013, 2016), three-time champ and NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (2002, 2005, 2011) and two-time champ Kyle Busch (2015, 2019). This season, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski has the chance to add his name to the list and become just the third active driver with multiple titles.
Keselowski brought Team Penske their first NASCAR Cup Series championship back in 2012 and then Joey Logano secured the organization’s second Cup title in 2018.
One thing that has been consistent through the years at Team Penske is that Keselowski has been impressive in his career. He is currently riding a 10-year streak of at least one win each season in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has made the Playoffs nine times in his career and this weekend marks the second time he has advanced to the Championship 4 round (2017, 2020). In total, the 36-year old has put up 34 NASCAR Cup Series victories.
Looking back at the 2020 season, Keselowski slipped in the season-opener at Daytona finishing 36th due to an incident, but quickly recovered to ramble off three wins (Charlotte-1, Bristol and New Hampshire) and 19 top 10s to secure his spot in the postseason. He entered the Playoffs seeded third with 29 Playoffs points.
A late surge lifts Keselowski to Championship 4
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have been a roller coaster ride for Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. The 2012 series champ jumped into the postseason with an 11th-place finish at Darlington and then followed that up with a win at Richmond Raceway to secure his spot in the Round of 12.
Following his win at Richmond, Keselowski went on a skid laying down a 34th-place finish at Bristol, a 13th at Las Vegas and then 18th at both Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL. Buoyed by his Playoff points, Keselowski barely made the Round of 8, but the opportunity gave him the chance to turn his postseason around and he did so by finishing fourth at Kansas and sixth at Texas. Heading into Martinsville last week Keselowski, held the fourth and final transfer spot into the Championship 4 and his fourth-place result at 0.526-mile track was enough to land his No. 2 team into the Championship 4.
Keselowski’s career performances in the Arizona desert
Though he has yet to win at Phoenix Raceway, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski enters this weekend with a lot of optimism he can grab his second title.
The Michigan native driver has made 22 series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting six top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish at Phoenix is 13.5, seventh-best in series and third-best among the Championship 4. Keselowski is also ranked in the top 10 in several key pre-race Loop Data categories with an Average Running Position of 12.179, seventh-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 93.8, seventh-best, 366 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best and 4,898 Laps in the Top 15 (71.3%), 10th-most. Keselowski started 14th and finished 11th in the Cup race at Phoenix early this season.
Crew Chief Corner: Jeremy Bullins
During the 2019 offseason Team Penske made headlines with a crew chief shake-up amongst its three teams and for the first time in in the Cup Series, Brad Keselowski and Jeremy Bullins were paired together for the 2020 season.
Jeremy Bullins began his NASCAR career with the Wood Brothers in 2000 as race engineer on the famous No. 21 team; a position he held until June 2002. From 2003 to 2011, Bullins worked with three different teams as race engineer in the NASCAR Cup Series – ST Motorsports, Robert Yates Racing and Richard Childress Racing.
In 2012, he accepted a position as crew chief for Team Penske’s No. 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series team. He led five drivers in 2012 and posted three wins with former champion Brad Keselowski – including the inaugural Indy 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Bullins served as crew chief for four drivers in 2013 at Team Penske, leading the crew to 12 wins and Roger Penske’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series owner title. Bullins led the No. 22 team and five drivers in 2014 to Team Penske’s second NASCAR Xfinity Series owner title after posting six wins.
In 2015, Bullins returned to the Wood Brothers organization to lead the No. 21 team with Ryan Blaney in the NASCAR Cup Series. The pair worked together for three years at the Wood Brothers Racing organization before making the transition back to Team Penske in 2018 where he led Ryan Blaney to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs. Blaney eventually finished 10th in the final Cup Series point standings as he scored then career bests in top fives (eight), top 10s (16), poles (three) and laps led (660). Last season the duo closed out 2019 by finishing a career-best seventh in the final NASCAR Cup Series standings.
This season, Keselowski and Bullins have both been pulling in the same direction and it shows. The No. 2 team has not only qualified for the Championship 4 but has also put up some pretty decent numbers in the first 35 races together
- 4 wins
- 12 top fives
- 23 top 10s
- 936 laps led
- NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearance in inaugural season together (2020)
- NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances in inaugural season together (2020)
If Keselowski and Bullins win the championship this season, Bullins will become the 41st different crew chief in the series to win a championship.
Delivering Team Penske its third title
He has done it once, he can do it again. At least that is what Team Penske is hoping this weekend at Phoenix Raceway as Brad Keselowski will attempt to bring the organization its third NASCAR Cup Series championship. Keselowski secured Roger Penske his first Cup title back in 2012 and Joey Logano grabbed the second in 2018.
In the Modern Era (1972-Present), only eight organizations have won multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships. Currently Team Penske (2012, 2018) is tied with Roush Fenway Racing (2003, 2004), and Stewart-Haas Racing (2011, 2014) with two titles each and looks to break the tie this weekend at Phoenix.
|NASCAR Cup Series (1972-Present) Multiple Champions|
|Rank||Multiple Championship Winning Organizations||Titles|
|2||Richard Childress Racing||6|
|3||Junior Johnson & Associates||6|
|4||Joe Gibbs Racing||5|
|6||Roush Fenway Racing||2|
Team Penske has won three times at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series – the first was in 1998 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, and the next two were by Joey Logano in the Playoff race of 2016 and earlier this season.
Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford)
Logano By The Numbers:
2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins at Phoenix Raceway.
3 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2020.
4 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2020).
5 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
6 – Number of stage wins during the 2020 season.
6.5 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2020 season.
8.1 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2020 Playoffs.
11 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2020 season.
12 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
12.1 – Average finishing position during the 2020 season.
14.3 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
20 – Number of top-10 finishes in the first 35 races of 2020 season.
22 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2020.
98.4 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – eighth-best among active drivers.
101.0 – Season-to-date driver rating – third-best among active drivers.
449 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
814 – Total number of laps led in the 2020 season.
9,473 – Total number of laps completed in the 2020 season (98.7%).
Logano has a shot at second Cup title in three years
Team Penske’s Joey Logano has a chance to become just the 11th different driver to win two or more titles within three seasons and the 17th to win multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships.
Herb Thomas, Buck Baker, Joe Weatherly, Lee Petty, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson all won two or more of their multiple NASCAR Cup Series titles within a three-year period.
|Drivers with Multiple Championships (1949-2019)|
|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|
Joey Logano started the 2020 season with high hopes in landing new crew chief Paul Wolfe. But they had a rough start in the season-opening Daytona 500 following an incident that relegated him to a 26th-place finish. But the 30-year old didn’t take any time to wallow, bouncing back the following week at Las Vegas with a win and an automatic berth to the Playoffs. He then collected another win at Phoenix Raceway just before the pandemic swept the nation. Once the series returned to action, Logano’s success slowed, and the 2018 series champ put up 12 top 10s to round out the regular season. He entered the 2020 Playoffs as the fourth seed with 22 Playoffs points.
No. 22 team’s path to the season finale at Phoenix
Team Penske’s Joey Logano has been a staple in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He has qualified for the Playoffs in seven of 12 seasons he has competed fulltime NASCAR Cup Series, and since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014, Logano has made the Championship 4 round a total of four times (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020).
Besides the wild card that is Talladega, Joey Logano’s 2020 Playoff campaign has been the most consistent among the Championship 4. Logano not touts the best average finish (8.1) among the four title contenders through the first nine races of the postseason, but he also grabbed the first win of the Round of 8 to guarantee his spot in the season finale.
In the Round of 16, No. 22 team and driver Joey Logano put up back-to-back third-place finishes at Darlington and Richmond and then closed out the round with an 11th at Bristol. The Round of 12 was the most treacherous for Logano throughout the postseason. He finished 14th at Las Vegas, 26th at Talladega due to an incident, but managed pullout a runner-up finish at the Charlotte ROVAL to advance to the Round of 8. Logano took the victory in Kansas locking himself into the Championship 4 and has been on cruise control ever since, finishing 10th at Texas and third last week at Martinsville.
Logano’s time to shine in the Valley of the Sun
Of the four drivers vying for the NASCAR Cup Series title this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Team Penske Joey Logano has to be the most thrilled it will be decided on the one-mile oval in the Valley of the Sun, as he is the most recent winner.
Back in March, Joey Logano started 13th at Phoenix and raced his way to the win leading 60 of the scheduled 316 laps. Logano actually passed his teammate Brad Keselowski for the lead in the closing laps for the victory. In total, Logano has made 23 series starts at Phoenix posting two wins (2016, 2020), five top fives and 12 top 10s. His average finish is 14.348, ninth-best in the series, but fourth among the Championship 4. Expect Logano to be in the mix this weekend at Phoenix, he ranked in the top 10 in several key pre-race Loop Data categories with an Average Running Position of 12.205, eighth-best, a Driver Rating of 91.4, eighth-best, 215 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best and 5,001 Laps in the Top 15 (69.7%), ninth-most.
The Wolfe in the room
Of the four crew chiefs contending this weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series title, none have been as successful as Paul Wolfe, and now the veteran crew chief has another chance at becoming the 16th different crew chief with multiple Cup championships.
|Crew Chiefs with Multiple Championships (1949-2019)|
|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||2015, ’19|
|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 NASCAR Cup Series Crew Chief champions|
Before becoming a crew chief, Paul Wolfe competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driving for car owners Ray Evernham, Armando Fitz, Tommy Baldwin Jr. and Eddie D’Hondt from
2003 – 2005. Wolfe’s first NASCAR crew chief opportunity came at Fitz Bradshaw Racing in 2006. He then moved to Braun Racing in 2008 and then CJM Racing in 2009 before settling at Team Penske in 2010.
In 2010 Wolfe led Brad Keselowski to the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship after posting six wins on the season. In 2011 the duo made the leap to the NASCAR Cup Series and in just their second season together in the NASCAR Cup Series (2012), he led Brad Keselowski to the series championship, becoming the first crew chief in NASCAR history to win a NASCAR Cup Series and a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship as the duo posted five wins in 2012.
From 2011-2019, Keselowski and Wolfe put up 29 wins, 110 top fives and 175 top 10s. This season Wolfe joined Joey Logano and the No. 22 team and hasn’t missed a beat. In 2020, the No. 22 team has posted three wins, 11 top fives and 20 top 10s – including the victory at Phoenix earlier this season.
Team Penske’s chance at a third title
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 is comprised of four drivers from three organizations – Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske. Since one organization managed to qualify two teams for the Championship 4, their odds of winning are double that of the other two organizations – making Team Penske the odds-on favorite for the title this weekend.
Not only has Team Penske won the most recent race at Phoenix Raceway (back in March), but the organization has a total of three wins at the one-mile track – Rusty Wallace (1998), Joey Logano (2016 and 2020).
Team Penske is currently tied with Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing for the sixth most NASCAR Cup Series championships in the Modern Era (1972-Present). If Team Penske accomplishes the feat this weekend, they would break the tie with RFR and SHR and become solely in the sixth position among owner championships with three just behind Petty Enterprises with four (in the Modern Era).