Chase Elliott was in contention to go back-to-back and win his second NASCAR Cup title at Phoenix, but what happened to him in the end? Where did the #9 finish as Kyle Larson swept to the crown?
Elliott’s weekend at Phoenix started well-ish as he stuck the #9 Hendrick Camaro on the front-row in qualifying alongside Larson.
As stage points don’t count for the Championship 4 drivers in the finale, all Elliott needed to do to retain his 2020 crown was to finish ahead of the other three contenders.
A late caution with 30 laps to go reset the field, with the Championship 4 of Larson, Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin and Elliott filing out the top four.
But what happened to Elliott as the season drew to a close at Phoenix?
Chase Elliott falls away at Phoenix
At this final restart, Larson got away well and sailed off into the distance.
Meanwhile, Elliott quickly passed Hamlin with a good move on the #11 Gibbs machine to run third, tracking behind Truex.
However, despite his relative short run pace earlier in the race, Elliott struggled to keep pace with the leading duo.
Indeed, Hamlin even slipped by late on, as Elliott slipped out of title contention, his #9 Chevy being hard to drive.
Things got slightly worse for Georgia-native Elliott as well, when Ryan Blaney passed him for fourth – Elliott being powerless to stop what was happening to him.
In the end, he finished fifth in the race, and fourth in the points standings on 5,032.
What did he say after Phoenix result?
Larson’s 10th win of the season completed a comprehensive drubbing of Elliott in 2021.
The reigning champion only scored two wins – neither of which came on an oval.
His win at COTA was rain-shortened with the second at Road America.
Despite the battering he took, it wasn’t all bad for Elliott in the race at Phoenix.
He had shown good pace early on and lead 94 laps, but was powerless to stop what happened after the race started to drift from him.
“I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week,” he explained on pit-road.
“I was really proud of our group, we brought a really good car and did a lot of things that we were wanting it to do today/
It just didn’t work out, and the sequence of the way all that went certainly was unfortunate for us [in terms of caution periods].
“I’m proud of our team, [there’s] a lot to build on, and also congrats to Kyle and Cliff.
What an amazing season. Very, very deserving champions, and glad to see Kyle have success.
When you’re a good driver and a good person and you surround yourself with good people, success is warranted.
“It’s good to see that. But we’ll be back stronger next year and try to give them a run.”
Elliott’s season stats
After what happened to Chase Elliott at Phoenix, he was forced to hand over his title to his teammate.
In 2021, Hendrick scored 17 wins.
Larson got 10, Alex Bowman four, Elliott two and William Byron, one.
Elliott scooped 21 top 10s from the 36 races, including second in the Daytona 500.