Four drivers remain in contention for this years NASCAR Cup Series Championship, as the iconic American race returns to the State of Arizona and the Phoenix Raceway for the final race of the 2021 season. The playoffs began in September when 16 drivers were still gunning for a shot at winning the 2021 Championship. Four drivers were eliminated with each passing race until last Sunday’s Round of Eight finale at the Martinsville Speedway which was won by the already eliminated Alex Bowman.
The Last Four
The four remaining contenders are split between just two teams – Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs. As for the drivers themselves, there is little separating them as far as the bookmakers are concerned; One of the biggest NASCAR betting site in Indiana, Unibet, has a spread of only $200 between them, as follows:
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports +165
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports +255
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing +300
Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing +365
These odds suggest that betting on each of the four drivers probably isn’t that far apart. This is perhaps unsurprising as previously gained points no longer matter when entering the final Championship race – whoever finishes ahead in this race will be crowned the champion irrespective of anything else, so there really is everything to go for in what is sure to be a thrilling end to the 2021 season.
Here’s our breakdown of Sunday’s contenders – good luck if you choose to place a bet!
Out of the four remaining drivers, it would be fair to say that Larson has been the most dominant throughout the season so far. With four wins out of the first nine playoff races, Larson scored his place in the final when he won the first race at the Round of 8, winning automatic advancement.
Larson is 29 years old and drives the No. 5 Chevrolet at NASCAR. His team, Hendrick Motorsports, have undoubtedly been the one to beat all season, and it’s really no surprise to anybody that we see him here as the favorite with the bookmakers to take home the giant NASCAR trophy on Sunday.
Will Kyle be able to hold it down when the pressure is on in this final race? We wish him luck!
Larson’s partner at Hendrick is Chase Elliott, another phenomenal driver who is currently the reigning champion after winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. A shot at a rare double is sure to fire up this 25-year-old driver, who advanced into this final race when he won in the first two stages of the Martinsville Round of Eight clash last Sunday.
Those two stages gave Elliott the points he needed to move into second place in the standings – he hasn’t actually won any of the previous nine playoff races, but maybe he’s just saving his best performance for when it really matters? We shouldn’t discount his second place finishes at Las Vegas and Kansas either, both of which were impressive.
Chase has 14 Top-5 finishes under his belt this season, 20 Top-10’s, and 858 Laps led – it’s easy to see why the bookmakers believe Elliott could still pull this one out of the bag.
Hamlin is the dark horse of this group, having entered the playoffs without a single win all season. In the postseason however, Hamlin quickly turned things around when he won the first race at Darlington. The oldest driver amongst the final four, Hamlin is 40 years old so has significantly more experience on the NASCAR circuits than the other drivers.
Denny caught his place in the final when he won the Round of 12 opener at the Las Vegas Speedway before catching the extra points he needed in the round of eight. Hamlin’s experience of the Phoenix circuit could give him an advantage here – he finished third in the last race on this track, during which he led for 33 laps. It would be exhilarating to see Hamlin win the Championship, so let’s wish this driver well for Sunday as well.
Martin Truex Junior
Finally, let’s talk about the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Mr. Martin Truex Junior. This driver has won four races this season, including a first place finish at Richmond in the round of 16. He scored his place in this final race after finishing in the top five on five separate occasions during the last nine playoff races.
Whilst he stands in last place as far as the bookmakers are concerned, it is only by a slim margin. Truex also won the Spring race at the Phoenix Raceway, so may perhaps be feeling confident going into this final race.