NASCAR's final four is set, paving the way for a fascinating championship race next Sunday. Chase Elliott secured the victory during the Xfinity 500 and booked his trip to the final playoff race. He will line up next to Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin as they fight for the trophy.
Elliott entered Sunday's race far below the cutoff line and needing a win to secure his spot in the final race. He proceeded to turn in his best performance of the season, leading more than 200 laps. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had the best car in the field and recovered from two very slow pit stops in order to retake his lead late. He never looked back and finished the night in Victory Lane.
While Elliott reached the championship for the first time in his career, another dominant driver missed the cutoff by the slimmest of margins. Kevin Harvick, the regular-season champion and winner of nine races, finished below the cutoff line. He struggled all day long with a car that did not perform as he expected but nearly mounted a comeback.
All Harvick needed to do was pass Kyle Busch on the final lap, and he would leapfrog Keselowski with a tiebreaker. He deliberately drove into the rear quarter panel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry on the final corner and attempted to spin out his opponent. The spin backfired, sending Harvick into the wall. His last-ditch effort failed, cementing his fate.
Hamlin and Keselowski, on the other hand, both entered the race needing to perform consistently and earn points in order to remain in contention. Logano previously locked up his spot with a win, leaving only three spots in the final four. Neither came close to winning on Sunday, but they did enough to finish ahead of Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Now Hamlin will compete for his first championship while Keselowski will attempt to add another trophy to his collection.
The final NASCAR race of the year takes place on Sunday. The drivers will head to Phoenix Raceway for a winner-takes-all shootout. Whoever finishes with the best position will end the day as the 2020 Cup Series champion, and there are two drivers that could lift the trophy for the first time in their respective careers.