The starting order is set for the final race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. Regular-season champion Kyle Larson has won the Busch Pole after posting the fastest time (26.116) during qualifying. He will lead the field to the green flag while Chase Elliott joins him on the front row.
Elliott was the first of the championship four drivers to head out onto the track for qualifying. He posted a lap time of 26.289 seconds and jumped to the top of the leaderboard. Denny Hamlin was next with a time of 26.361. He was within reach of taking the top spot from Elliott, but he moved too far up the track and settled for fourth. Though he dropped two more spots to sixth after William Byron and Larson posted faster times.
Truex had the slowest time of the championship four drivers. He finished his lap in 26.494 seconds, the 12th-fastest of the Cup Series drivers. He will start the season finale next to Brad Keselowski on the sixth row.
The championship race will take place on Sunday, November 7, at 3 p.m. ET. NBC will broadcast the 312-lap event as Larson, Elliott, Hamlin, and Truex fight for the Bill France Cup and a spot in the NASCAR record books.
3 Championship Contenders Had Issues During Inspection
With only one opportunity to secure a spot near the front of the pack, the four championship contenders had to avoid any issues during inspection. Elliott achieved this goal when the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro passed tech on the first try. However, he was the only one.
According to NASCAR, the stock cars belonging to Truex, Hamlin, and Larson all failed inspection on the first two tries. This meant that they would each lose a member of their respective crews. Larson lost car chief Jesse Saunders, Hamlin lost car chief Brandon Griffeth, and Truex lost car chief Blake Harris.
All three drivers and their teams avoided bigger issues prior to qualifying. They passed inspection on the third try, meaning that they could move ahead and try to post the fastest time during their two-lap attempts. Failing inspection on the third try would have dropped the stock cars to the rear of the field and forced them to conduct a pass-through penalty, which would have put them one lap behind the field on the opening laps.
A Former Champion Can Cap Off 20-Year Era With a Win
The season finale at Phoenix Raceway marks the final race of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR team. The two-car team will cease to exist after the checkered flag waves, ending a 20-year tenure in stock car racing for owner Chip Ganassi.
Both CGR drivers — Ross Chastain and Kurt Busch — will have the goal of winning at Phoenix and sending Ganassi out with one final trophy. The 2004 Cup Series champion in Busch will be in the best position to achieve this goal. He posted a lap time of 26.327, which was good enough for fifth in the starting order. Chastain will line up 16th with a time of 26.544.
Busch has previously captured the checkered flag at Phoenix during his championship career. He won the 2005 race for Jack Roush while driving the No. 97 Ford. He hasn’t returned to Victory Lane at the desert track since but has continued to contend. Busch has 37 starts at Phoenix with 20 top-10 finishes and seven top-fives. This includes a sixth-place run during the spring 2020 race.
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