Who won the NASCAR championship in 2021? Full results from the Cup Series title race at Phoenix

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All season, Kyle Larson has been NASCAR’s most dominant driver.

He came into the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 with nine wins, five more than anyone else during the season. He added one more on Sunday.

After trailing Martin Truex Jr. by nearly four seconds with 30 laps remaining at the Phoenix Raceway, a caution flag gave him a chance to restart. His pit crew, based in the first stall, turned in its second-fastest time of the season and put him out of pit road first. Despite a late push by Truex, Larson never relinquished the lead as he claimed his first NASCAR Cup Series title.

“There were so many points of this race where I did not think that we were going to win, and without my pit crew on that last stop, we would not be standing right here,” Larson told the NBC broadcast after the race. “So they’re the true winners in this race, they’re true champions.”

Just a year ago, Larson was suspended from NASCAR and fired from Chip Ganassi Racing after using a racial slur during an iRacing event in 2020. He was reinstated in October and was signed by Hendrick Motorsports for the start of the 2021 season, and has been a dominant driver all year.

“I cannot believe it. I didn’t even think I’d be racing a Cup car a year and a half ago, to win the championship is crazy,” Larson said. “I just I gotta say first off, thank you so much to Rick Hendrick, HendrickCars.com, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, every single one of my supporters in the stands, watching at home, my family, I got so many family, friends here.”

Three of the four championship drivers spent time racing out in front, with Larson finishing the afternoon having led for 107 laps, Chase Elliott for 94 and Truex for 72. Denny Hamlin was the only Championship 4 driver not to have led for a lap.

Sporting News tracked live updates and lap-by-lap highlights from NASCAR’s 2021 championship race  on Sunday. Read below for complete results for the winner-take-all Championship 4 finale at Phoenix.

MORE: Watch NASCAR’s championship live on fuboTV (7-day free trial)

Who won the NASCAR championship in 2021?

Larson picked up his first career NASCAR Cup Series title with a win on Sunday. 

He led for most of the race and won both the second and third stages to help seal his win, capping off a season where he won 10 races.

NASCAR Championship 4 results

Pos. Driver
1 Kyle Larson
2 Martin Truex Jr.
3 Denny Hamlin
4 Chase Elliott

6:47 p.m.:  Larson holds off Truex, and he is the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

6:47 p.m.:  Truex has now made it about a half-second gap with two laps to go.

6:45 p.m.:  Five laps to go, Truex is only barely within a second of Larson.

6:43 p.m.:  Hamlin is running strong along the outside and zips past Elliott. Larson is now nearly a second ahead of Truex, while Hamlin is about 1.7 seconds back.

6:41 p.m.:  Truex has now fallen to about a half-second back of Larson. Elliott and Hamlin are still over a second behind Larson.

6:40 p.m.:  Larson cuts up wide on the track and starts to move back toward the inside near Truex and nearly makes contact, but just misses to avoid a hit.

6:38 p.m.:  With 20 laps to go, Truex is giving Larson a run for the top spot. He is about two-tenths-of-a-second back for the lead.

6:36 p.m.:  Larson gets a strong launch off the restart and he surges well out front, and Truex passes Hamlin to take second.

6:35 p.m.:  Larson and Hamlin are on the top row with Larson on the outside. Truex is on the outside in row two and Elliott is on the inside.

6:33 p.m.:  Larson gains three spots on pit road and is now out in the lead. Hamlin, Truex, Elliott follow.

6:32 p.m.:  All the Championship 4 drivers are taking the chance to pit.

6:29 p.m.:  Caution comes out with 30 laps to go.

6:28 p.m.:  Larson is in a tough spot. He’s more than four seconds behind Truex and more than three seconds back of Hamlin for second. 

6:25 p.m.:  Elliott appears to make contact with the wall, but it hasn’t dropped him yet. Truex and Hamlin are still No. 1 and 2, while Larson remains in fourth.

6:20 p.m.:  Elliott has continued trying to drive inside to move up on Hamlin, but he hasn’t been able to make up that ground the same way he did against Larson. 

6:16 p.m.:  The green is back out with 58 laps remaining in the championship. Truex and Hamlin lead the field.

6:13 p.m.:  First drivers off pit road are Hamlin, Elliott, Logano, Larson and Aric Almirola.

6:11 p.m.:  Sounds like Truex will stay on the lead lap.

6:08 p.m.:  Caution flag comes out, and this could be bad timing for Truex. Anthony Alfredo blows his right front tire and he hits the wall hard.

6:08 p.m.:  Truex pits early on Lap 247. He’s the first of the leaders to head to pit road.

6:07 p.m.:  Hamlin has been putting up some quick times, and he’s now passed Larson for second place.

6:02 p.m.:  Elliott keeps trying to gain some space on Larson by cutting to the inside, and he’s starting to make up some ground. Elliott pulled ahead of him briefly with 77 laps to go before clearing Larson with 76 remaining.

5:54 p.m.:  This is Larson’s race with 93 laps to go. He’s about a second up on Elliott, and neither Hamlin nor Truex are within three seconds of the lead.

5:47 p.m.:  Truex and Hamlin are fighting for the third spot, but Larson and Elliott are now running out to a decent advantage.

5:45 p.m.:  The final stage is underway. Elliott struggles on the restart, and Hamlin pulls up ahead of him briefly.

5:40 p.m.: Larson, Elliott, Hamlin, Truex and Busch are the first five off pit road.

5:37 p.m.:  Larson claims the second stage, with Elliott, Hamlin, Truex and Blaney rounding out the top five.

5:33 p.m.:  With less than nine laps to go in the stage, Larson continues to lead Elliott in a tight race for first. Hamlin and Truex are running third and fourth.

5:26 p.m.:  Elliott has been trying to ride close to the back corner of Larson and put some pressure on him. 

5:25 p.m.:  All four championship drivers are at the front with Larson, Elliott, Hamlin and Truex rounding out the top four.

5:23 p.m.:  The top four drivers are Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez leading the pack on the restart. However, Larson and Elliott immediately pass all four to take the top-two spots.

5:22 p.m.:  Truex has some trash on his grill, according to the broadcast, that he was unable to get off. 

5:17 p.m.:  Larson benefits from a quick stop on pit road, which moves him up to first. Elliott, Truex, Harvick and Hamlin round out the top five.

5:15 p.m.:  Another crash, another caution. Chase Briscoe backs into the wall and it looks like his afternoon will be over as well. He gets a flat tire and hits the wall hard.

5:15 p.m.:  Truex tries to pass Larson from the inside, but he hasn’t been able to clear him yet. Harvick is right behind him.

5:11 p.m.:  There go the drivers on the restart, and Larson immediately starts to push for the lead. Elliott is out in front, but Larson quickly passes Harvick for the second spot.

5:10 p.m.:  Stenhouse’s day is over after the crash. None of the leaders head to pit road.

5:04 p.m.:  The drivers aren’t in green much longer as the race goes back under caution. Stenhouse loses a front-left tire and goes into the wall. 

5:02 p.m.:  The race has restarted, and Larson almost immediately passes Harvick to move into second. 

4:58 p.m.:  Elliott, Harvick, Larson, Truex and Bryon are the first five off pit road, as Truex drops four spots. Hamlin comes off in ninth.

4:56 p.m.:  All the leaders will take the caution to pit. The fill up on fuel should be able to let them finish the race on fuel.

4:54 p.m.:  Caution flags come out for a crash involving Quin Houff on Lap 54. Looks like the right front tire got blown out and he just drove straight into the wall.

4:53 p.m.:  Truex takes advantage of some traffic as he carves through the field to put some distance between himself and Elliott for first place.

4:51 p.m.:  Truex is back out in front as he’s able to get around Elliott for the top spot. Larson and Hamlin are in fourth and fifth.

4:45 p.m.:  Elliott has built up a solid lead as he’s ahead of Truex by just over a second. Larson and Harvick have been battling for third, while Hamlin continues to ride fifth on Lap 35 of Stage 2.

4:38 p.m.:  Battle going on for fourth as Harvick and Hamlin are going back and forth around Lap 20 of the stage. Both are about 2.5 seconds back of Elliott in first.

4:33 p.m.:  The green flag is back out as the 115-lap Stage 2 is underway. 

4:28 p.m.:  Elliott, Truex, Harvick, Hamlin and Larson are the first five off pit road.

4:23 p.m.:  Truex runs away with the Stage 1 win. Harvick, Elliott, Hamlin and Larson round out the top five.

4:20 p.m.:  Hamlin moves up ahead of Larson for fourth overall, but both drivers are still well behind Truex for the lead. No driver is within three seconds of Truex.

4:17 p.m.:  Blaney has dropped all the way down to sixth, as all the Championship 4 drivers are in the top five now. Truex is leading Harvick by nearly two seconds, and Hamlin, running fifth, is just over four seconds back.

4:12 p.m.:  Now Truex has moved all the way up into first to get ahead of Harvick and Blaney with 24 laps left.

4:10 p.m.:  The four are taking up spots three through six with 27 laps left in the stage. Truex, Elliott, Larson and Hamlin.

4:07 p.m.:  Harvick has managerd to catch Blaney for the lead with Elliott not too far behind. Truex has also made some strides up the field as he’s now ahead of Larson, who is now in fifth, just a spot above Hamlin.

4:04 p.m.:  Kevin Harvick is able to get out in front of Elliott, and he eventually moves up to second ahead of Larson. Ryan Blaney still leads the race with about a second-and-a-half advantage.

4:00 p.m.:  Elliott tries to pass Larson from the inside, but he slips a little and has to catch himself before the two ended up in a crash. He moves behind Larson for third.

3:57 p.m.:  There’s the restart as Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Ross Chastain start out in front. Larson doesn’t take long to move up to fourth, passing Michael McDowell from the inside.

3:53 p.m.:  All the leaders take the chance to head to pit row, but Larson is staying out. He will be fifth on the restart.

3:51 p.m.:  It takes just four more laps for the caution flag to come back out. LaJoie and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bumped into one another when the cars went three wide, and LaJoie hits the wall. Stenhouse is able to stop before the wall and looks to be relatively clean.

3:49 p.m.:  Elliott and William Byron take the front row as the race hits the restart on Lap 11.

3:48 p.m.:  Larson drops from second to 34th with the pit stop.

3:45 p.m.:  Larson is the only championship driver to take the chance to pit under caution. It appears Wallace’s afternoon is over after the crash.

3:44 p.m.:  The caution flag is out as Bubba Wallace hits the wall. He gets hit on the back by the 7 of Corey LaJoie, leading to the crash.

3:41 p.m.:  It doesn’t take long for Elliott to ride the inside and take the lead over Larson by Lap 2 of the race.

3:41 p.m.:  There’s the green flag, and the championship is underway.

3:29 p.m.:  The command has been given. Drivers are set to start this race.

3:25 p.m.:  Kristin Chenoweth performed the national anthem before the race.

3:18 p.m.:  Pre-race ceremony beginning with the singing of “God Bless America” ahead of the start of the championship race.

3:10 p.m.:  Which of these four drivers will be coming away with that trophy?

NASCAR start time today

  • Time: 3 p.m. ET (TV time)
  • TV channel: NBC (TSN5 in Canada)
  • Live stream: NBC Sports.com | NBC Sports App | Peacock Premium | fuboTV ( 7-day free trial )
  • Radio: MRN

The green flag for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Phoenix Raceway’s 1-mile track is scheduled to drop at 3:34 p.m. EST Sunday (1:34 p.m. MST). The track has lights, so the race can finish after sunset, which is set for 5:37 p.m. MST on Sunday.

Weather does not figure to be the cause of a delay. The National Weather Serivce’s forecast for Avondale, Ariz. , where Phoenix Raceway is located, is for sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s. Winds will be calm to light.  

PHOENIX LINEUP:  Starting order, pole with qualifying

How does the NASCAR championship race work?

Each driver in the Championship 4 will begin the race with 5,000 points. The driver with the most points at the end of the race will be the Cup Series champion. There is one major difference between the first 35 races of the season and the championship race: Stage points will not be awarded to the Championship 4 drivers. That means the playoff drivers’ official finishing positions alone will determine who wins the championship. The best finisher among the four will be awarded the title. 

NASCAR starting lineup at Pheonix

Here is the complete starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Thirty-nine cars were entered for the race, one fewer than the number for a full field. Championship 4 drivers are denoted by a “P” next to their names.

Start pos. Driver Car No. Team
1 P-Kyle Larson 5 Hendrick Motorsports
2 P-Chase Elliott 9 Hendrick Motorsports
3 William Byron 24 Hendrick Motorsports
4 Ryan Blaney 12 Team Penske
5 Kurt Busch 1 Chip Ganassi Racing
6 P-Denny Hamlin 11 Joe Gibbs Racing
7 Cole Custer 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
8 Christopher Bell 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
9 Kevin Harvick 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
10 Joey Logano 22 Team Penske
11 Brad Keselowski 2 Team Penske
12 P-Martin Truex Jr. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing
13 Kyle Busch 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
14 Alex Bowman 48 Hendrick Motorsports
15 Matt DiBenedetto 21 Wood Brothers Racing
16 Ross Chastain 42 Chip Ganassi Racing
17 Daniel Suarez 99 TrackHouse Racing
18 Aric Almirola 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
19 Ryan Newman 6 Roush Fenway Racing
20 Tyler Reddick 8 Richard Childress Racing
21 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
22 Chase Briscoe 14 Stewart-Haas Racing
23 Austin Dillon 3 Richard Childress Racing
24 Corey LaJoie 7 Spire Motorsports
25 Bubba Wallace 23 23XI Racing
26 Chris Buescher 17 Roush Fenway Racing
27 Erik Jones 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
28 Michael McDowell 34 Front Row Motorsports
29 Justin Haley 77 Spire Motorsports
30 Anthony Alfredo 38 Front Row Motorsports
31 Ryan Preece 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
32 BJ McLeod 78 Live Fast Motorsports
33 Cody Ware 51 Petty Ware Racing
34 Joey Gase 53 Rick Ware Racing
35 Quin Houff 00 StarCom Racing
36 David Starr 15 Motorsports Business Management
37 Josh Bilicki 52 Rick Ware Racing
38 Garrett Smithley 15 Rick Ware Racing
39 Timmy Hill 66 Motorsports Business Management



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