NASCAR Phoenix Auto Racing

Ross Chastain will attempt to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title on Sunday after a daring move last week sealed his spot in the championship race. Matt York/Associated Press

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ross Chastain skyrocketed to motorsports infamy for wall-riding his way into NASCAR’s championship race with a video-game style move that has overshadowed the finale and his fellow title contenders.

With that comes a ton of pressure on the eighth-generation Florida watermelon farmer and journeyman NASCAR driver who once took a side gig driving a motorhome to races just to earn extra cash.

This year, his first with second-year team Trackhouse Racing, has been the breakout the 29-year-old has long been chasing. Chastain’s decision to slam his Chevrolet into the Martinsville Speedway wall and ride it into the fourth and final playoff spot just might have made him the fan favorite in Sunday’s winner-take-all finale at Phoenix Raceway.

In his 151st career Cup start, Chastain will race for his first championship.

“There are nerves and there’s anxiety and there is fear of failure. How cool is it that I’m getting to experience this?” he said. “In the moment, it’s not pleasant, the nerves. I wish they would go away.”

The field is stacked.


Christopher Bell has been red-hot with two walk-off wins in a pair of playoff elimination races to advance to his first championship. Bell is the only Toyota driver in the field.

Joey Logano is Ford’s only representative but will try to give Roger Penske both the NASCAR and IndyCar championships in the same season. Will Power won the IndyCar title for Team Penske in September and the organization has never won both championships in the same season.

Logano, the 2018 champion, is aware of what he can deliver for his boss. Penske celebrated his 85th birthday in February when Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 for the team.

“I know that is on the line. The goal is still the same, whether the IndyCar guys won the championship or not,” Logano said. “We need to do our side of the job. It would be obviously a little cherry on top of the weekend to be able to say we’ve won both.

“Probably makes the championship party a little better. Bigger, for sure.”

And then there’s Chase Elliott, the 2020 champion who began a streak of two consecutive Cup championships for Hendrick Motorsports. Kyle Larson was eliminated in the first round, so Elliott in his Chevrolet is Hendrick’s only shot at winning three straight Cup titles.


NASCAR’s most popular driver won the regular-season crown and led the Cup standings most of the year. But he’s had a mediocre playoffs and only won at Talladega – his career-high fifth win of the season.

“He’s had some situations where the car wasn’t as good as we thought it would be, and he was frustrated,” Rick Hendrick said. “You run good at Phoenix, you’ve won that race, you’ve won the championship. He’s excited. He’s ready. We’ll just put any of the bad luck or inconsistencies we’ve had leading up to this race behind us because it’s all about Sunday.”

Elliott is the favorite to win both the race and the title, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

The top driver among the four contenders wins the title. Only Elliott and Logano have raced in the championship finale before. Chastain had never before made the playoffs, and Bell made it to the second round in last year’s playoff debut.

Logano, at 32 years old, is the oldest driver in the championship.

“I think you look at the Cup Series specifically, there’s a youth movement in NASCAR,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “We saw that youth movement a couple years ago kind of start to take hold and take root. But you need to win, right? It’s one thing to have young drivers come into our Cup Series, but could they win? They’ve proven again and again and again this year that they can.”

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