The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion will be crowned Sunday in the desert at Phoenix Raceway in the Season Finale 500 (3 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), wrapping up another spectacular season of NASCAR racing.
Before the on-track action, catch up on some important details.
Built in 1964, Phoenix Raceway is a 1-mile desert oval featuring a 1,551-foot frontstretch and a 1,179 -foot backstretch. Turns 1 and 2 have an 8- to 9-degree variable banking and Turns 3 and 4 are banked from 10 to 11 degrees.
Richard Petty won the first NASCAR race in 1978, a Winston West Series event. The premier series has hosted a race every season since 1988.
The track was reconfigured and repaved in 2011, changing the pit stall area, widening the frontstretch, adjusting the dogleg and adding more progressive banking in the turns. In 2018, the start/finish line was relocated in the previous Turn 2 area.
Stage 1 will end at Lap 75, Stage 2 at Lap 190 and the Final Stage at Lap 312.
Chase Elliott earned the final Busch Pole Award of the season, starting on the front row alongside Joey Logano. Championship contenders Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin fill up the second row, while Ryan Blaney completes the top five.
The lineup was determined using NASCAR‘s competition-based formula, which is a total number based on the previous event: 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver‘s final race finish position, 25% of the owner‘s final race position and 35% of the owner points position.
RELATED: Full starting grid
Teams will use the enhanced 2020 short oval and road course package, featuring a significantly shorter rear spoiler and front splitter. Cars are fitted with a tapered-spacer engine targeting around 750 horsepower and emphasizing lower downforce due to aerodynamic changes.
Cup Series teams are provided with nine sets of Goodyear Eagle Intermediate Radials. Goodyear is accounting for the changes made to the series‘ short track package by increasing mechanical grip through new tread compounds. Running with lower downforce, tire wear management will come into play throughout the afternoon for teams and may be a key factor in deciding the race winner.
“This package that the Cup cars run at Phoenix — the tires, horsepower and aero — really produced some great racing when we debuted it in March,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear‘s director of racing. “The sport as a whole came together to come up with ideas to improve this short track rules package, and that enabled us at Goodyear to bring a tire that adds mechanical grip and wears a bit more. Those are two important factors, as the mechanical grip replaces the loss of aerodynamic grip with the lower downforce, while the ability for tires to wear is always a positive.”
CHAMPIONSHIP STATS TO KNOW
— The season finale has been won by a Championship 4 driver in all six years of the current format. Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano are this year‘s drivers looking to keep the streak alive.
— Logano (2018) and Keselowski (2012), Team Penske teammates, are the only previous Cup Series champions in the 2020 Championship 4 and both started the season with new crew chief pairings.
— Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Elliott, has three wins at Phoenix with three different drivers. His three victories at this track are more than the other three Championship 4 crew chiefs combined.
— Four of the last seven drivers to reach nine wins in a season failed to win the championship, including the last two: Kevin Harvick in 2020 and Carl Edwards in 2008.
Source: Racing Insights
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR Mobile App to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner, and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras). We’ll be on board with Jimmie Johnson for his final race in his final full-time season.
Also, Coca-Cola is sponsoring a YouTube in-car camera with Championship 4 contender Joey Logano.
Watch for the pre-race show sponsored by Sugarlands Shine at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday on NASCAR.com.
2019 RACE WINNER
Denny Hamlin‘s clutch win at Phoenix in last year‘s playoffs punched his ticket to the Championship 4 after being 20 points out of the final transfer spot. Hamlin led 143 laps in the race, outpacing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for his second win at the track.
RELATED: Championship weekend Power Rankings
ACTIVE PHOENIX WINNERS
Kevin Harvick (nine wins); Jimmie Johnson (four wins); Kyle Busch (three wins); Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman (two wins each); Kurt Busch (one win).