2021 Season Finale 500 Race Preview & Picks
NASCAR's entire season will culminate in the Valley of the Sun on Sunday, with the running of the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway to determine the Cup Series Championship. The drivers that have
earned the right to race for a championship include Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, and Denny
Hamlin. Collectively, those drivers have combined for 17 victories this season which is nearly 50% of the
races run this year. Championship contenders have won the season finale every year of the current
points format, and there is a strong likelihood that the final four will need a victory on Sunday to earn the
Cup Series title
Back in the spring, Martin Truex won the Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway. The majority of Truex's victories over the last couple of years have been produced on the shorter layouts. Needless to say,
Truex is among the sharp favorites this week, stemming from his victory at Phoenix back in March.
Ultimately, most casual fans or even bettors will likely name Kyle Larson as the driver to beat. While
Larson has been the most dominant driver in the Cup Series throughout 2021, with nine total victories.
However, Larson has never tasted victory lane at Phoenix Raceway and honestly has not been great with
just 5 top 5 finishes in 14 career starts which have yielded an average finishing position of 11.6.
Personally, I think Larson deserves the championship based on his performance this season, but I don't believe this knockout style finale at Phoenix plays to his advantage.
Chase Elliott scored his 1st Phoenix victory in this race last year to take down the championship and
will get the rare opportunity to go back to back on Sunday. Based on Elliott's performance in recent
weeks, the No. 9 team is trending in the right direction, but I would still point out the fact Elliott
himself has been somewhat inconsistent at Phoenix. Speaking of consistency, Denny Hamlin has likely
been the most consistent driver at Phoenix throughout his career. Hamlin's average finishing position of
10.7 ranks 2nd among active drivers. Only Kevin Harvick has produced better results, and Harvick has
been terrific at Phoenix with nine career victories.
Ultimately, I believe Martin Truex has shown the best long-run speed throughout the season using
the 750 horsepower rules package, which will be used for the final time this weekend. Still, it is difficult
to determine whether this race will be decided by long green flag runs or if a late-race restart could be
the difference. As a fan of the sport, I would not be disappointed to see Denny Hamlin get his 1st
championship this weekend. The 17 year Cup Series veteran has been very close to a championship
multiple times throughout his career but has yet to seal the deal. With that being said, Hamlin has a
history of making mistakes on the biggest stage, and that is not where I want my money to be on Sunday.
Therefore, I believe Truex and Elliott are your best options to take home the championship.
Obviously, the Cup Series Championship is just one aspect of this race, and we could witness a
different driver in victory lane. I just think the possibility is relatively low based on historical trends and
the current performance of the championship competitors. However, I will throw out the names of
Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch as drivers that I would keep close on my radar for all betting formats.
Busch's stats have been phenomenal at Phoenix, with finishes of 3rd or better in 8 of the last ten races.
Meanwhile, Christopher Bell is an underrated short-track talent that has improved with every Phoenix
start. Therefore, Busch and Bell deserve betting attention, especially in H2H formats.