Sizing up NASCAR title contenders

By Steve Makinen  ( 

November 2, 2021 08:25 PM

This will be championship weekend at Phoenix International Raceway for all levels of NASCAR’s top series. Four drivers have advanced to Sunday’s  championship race by virtue of their performance over nine weeks of playoff races. These four will share the track with 35 other drivers, but only the four are eligible to win the series title. 

Whoever finishes best in this race among Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex will win the championship. Of the four, only Elliott (last year) and Truex (2017) have titles to their names. However, Larson is a somewhat heavy favorite, listed at + 190 to win, according to DraftKings. But recognize that the four drivers come from just two teams, Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Consider this one major point if you’re thinking about wagering immediately. This will be a full weekend of action, including practice and qualifying. This has happened only seven times this season, and not since the mid-August event at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Let’s go through the history of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race in its current format, as well as the key stats and facts for the four contenders.

History of the Cup Series Championship Race

The 2014 season was the first in which NASCAR used the current playoff system. Three elimination rounds are used to pare the field to four championship-eligible drivers for the season finale. Here are the results of those races with the four drivers who were eligible for the title:

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