Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:48 AM
Season Finale 500 Picks, Predictions, Preview, Odds
- November 5
- by Micah Roberts
The last six NASCAR Cup Series Champions have won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Every point accumulated during the regular season and postseason is wiped away. It’s the Championship 4 drivers against each other, the best finish wins. Winning is the best way to take care of business.
This year, the season finale is Sunday at Phoenix Raceway and it’s appropriately named the Season Finale 500. To find the winner, we no longer look at what drivers did on 1.5-mile tracks during the season as we’ve done since 2004 with Homestead.
The best way now for Phoenix is to look at the performance of the cars in the 12 races using the race package featuring engines that produce 750 horsepower, which includes the non-points All-Star Race at Bristol.
NASCAR Cup Series
Season Finale 500
- Race: Season Finale 500
- Date: Sunday, November 8, 2020
- TV-Time: NBC, 3:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Phoenix Raceway
- Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Here’s a list of the top candidates to win this week, along with a few long shots, with odds to win Sunday’s race courtesy of William Hill sportsbooks:
Handicapping the Championship 4
Season Finale 500 Odds
- Chase Elliott +240
- Denny Hamlin +240
- Joey Logano +260
- Brad Keselowski +280
#11 Denny Hamlin (3/1)
In 30 Phoenix starts he has an 11th-place average finish with two wins, 13 top-fives, and 821 laps led. Last season when Phoenix was the turn race before the Championship 4 at Homestead, he had to win to transfer, and he did. He won the first stage, finished second in the second stage, and led 143 laps on his way to probably the biggest win of his career. The biggest race of his career is this week looking for his first title. You ready, Denny?
“I think we can win any given week for sure,” Hamlin said.” The short tracks haven’t been great for us all year, but you just never know. Last year, we went there and nearly lapped the field, so who knows how it’s going to turn out. One race, winner take all, you never know.”
Hamlin has received lots of criticism for not winning a title yet, so you can believe he has an entire list of doubters and haters he wants to shut up and he can do that with a win.
#2 Brad Keselowski (7/2)
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I like to group certain tracks for handicapping purposes. If a driver does well on one, they’ll likely do well on the others.
Phoenix’s flat 1-mile layout falls into a category with New Hampshire’s flat 1-mile layout, and Richmond’s ¾-mile flat layout.
All three are configured differently but because of the distance and banking similarities, the set-up requirements are virtually the same or at least for those who do well.
Keselowski won three races this season using the 750 horsepower package being used this week and he was dominant in all three leading the most laps. Two of those were at New Hampshire where he led 184 laps and Richmond where he led 192 laps.
He’s never won at Phoenix but has his best chance ever Sunday which would also give him the 2020 Cup Championship.
#9 Chase Elliott (9/2)
He had one of the best cars in the March race, started from pole, led a race-high 93 laps, and then hit the wall late in the race and his car didn’t handle the same. He’s had a few instances like that at Phoenix.
But the reason to bet him this week is he has arguably had the best runs using the 750 hp package which includes four wins and won the last two using it.
“I’m still kind of wrapping my head around everything, I feel like,” Elliott said earlier this week. “I’ve never been in this position before, so I think myself, much like a lot of people around me are kind of learning this together. For me, I’m just taking it a day at a time and just enjoying the moment. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, and I think it’s really important to do that. I’ve heard my dad say that over the years that he wished he enjoyed certain moments more and didn’t just run through them. So I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
#22 Joey Logano (9/2)
He won the March race at Phoenix, but probably had the fourth-best car of the day, although he did lead 60 laps. Last fall he led 93 laps before finishing ninth. He also won at Phoenix in 2016. He’s part of Team Penske which has produced some of the fastest cars using the 750 hp package. He’s had top-fives in the last two races using it.
Handicapping the Season Finale 500
Season Finale 500 Contender Odds
- Kevin Harvick +300
- Kyle Busch +550
- Denny Hamlin +600
- Chase Elliott +700
- Joey Logano +850
- Brad Keselowski +1000
- Martin Truex Jr. +1000
- Ryan Blaney +1400
Top Outside Contenders to Win
#4 Kevin Harvick (4/1)
He leads the series with nine wins in 2020 and he’s not in the Championship 4, so you know what he wants to do? Go out and win his 10th race this week, which would also be his 10th career win at Phoenix, a track record. He also holds the track record with 18 top-fives and 1,662 laps led.
#19 Martin Truex Jr. (13/2)
He’s been sixth or better in four of his last six Phoenix starts with a career-best of runner-up in the spring of 2019. It’s been a down year for him, but the good news is that he’s driving the race package that was used to win his only race at Martinsville in July.
#18 Kyle Busch (12/1)
I have a bet on him this week just because he’s always hanging around Phoenix upfront in whatever series he’s participating in. He has three Cup wins, 12 top-fives, and 1,190 laps led. He has top-fives in nine of his last 10 starts there, and the one that wasn’t was seventh-place. He won at Phoenix in the fall of 2005 during his rookie year, the same race his brother missed due to a suspension.
“The last several times we’ve been to Phoenix, we’ve run pretty good,” Busch said. “Hopefully, that can translate to this time around again. We were good at Richmond, and normally Richmond translates good there. Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) that translates there. I’m optimistic about it. I think we can do OK. It’s just a matter of running another clean race and not making mistakes.”
#12 Ryan Blaney (20/1)
He was involved in an accident in the March race, but he’s really good at this track and he’s got Team Penske backing. He was third in both races last season. This week’s race package has also been good for him with top-fives in his last two using it.
Top Long Shots to Win
#10 Aric Almirola (50/1)
He’s been in the mix at Phoenix ever since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 getting his best of fourth-place, twice, and was eighth in the March race. He has top-10s in his last four races on ovals using the 750 hp package.
“Phoenix is just a fast short track,” Almirola said.”Ever since the repave, it races like a mile-and-a-half, which is different from a Richmond-, Martinsville- or Bristol-type of short track. It’s a fun race and I always look forward to heading out West to Phoenix.”
#88 Alex Bowman (50/1)
Phoenix is his home track and had his best run ever there filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016 when he won the pole, led 194 laps, and finished sixth, which is his best finish after 10 races. He had top-10s in his last two races using the 750 hp package.
“Going home to Arizona is always special and to see Phoenix Raceway get the Championship race is great., said Bowman. “Phoenix is one of those tracks where I feel like we have just had some bad luck. The 2016 race is still a race where we look back and know that we could have gotten the win there.”
#1 Kurt Busch (60/1)
He had a strong sixth-place run at Phoenix in the March race. In the spring 2005 race, he was dominant in leading 219 laps to win, but then couldn’t defend it in the fall race. He got busted outside the track for suspicion of DUI, got suspended by car owner Jack Roush, and then later fired for effect because Busch was leaving Roush at the end of 2005. No wins since.
#48 Jimmie Johnson (75/1)
This is it for the seven-time Cup champion. His last race. It seems like yesterday I was at Fontana watching him win his first Cup race where I had a cold beer in one hand and a soon to be winning ticket paying at 25-to-1 odds. Time flies, but what a champion he was. It was an honor to watch him go to work. He’s averaged a 10th-place finish at Phoenix with four wins, 15 top-fives, and 994 laps led.
“I’m excited, honestly,” Johnson said about his last start. “It’s been an amazing journey and one that I could have never dreamed of. To be here at the end of what has been a crazy year, going out on my terms, is really special. I’ve had the great support of Hendrick Motorsports, Ally, Cliff Daniels, and my team. So many people have been there for me, especially my incredible family and friends. I’m happy. I’m in a great headspace. Will it hit me in Phoenix? I’m sure it will, but I’m glad I will have my loved ones there to celebrate all we have accomplished and toast to the future.”
#24 William Byron (75/1)
He won at Phoenix in a 2017 Xfinity Series race and his best Cup finish was ninth in 2018. He was 10th in the spring race. I haven’t heard anything about his pit crew who missed last week due to COVID-19. If betting him, be sure to check out more info.
“It’s going to be a lot different, I feel like, finishing the season in Phoenix instead of Homestead,” Byron said. “Phoenix put on a good race the last time we were there this spring. Between the PJ1 and the low downforce, I think it was a really good recipe for good racing. I envision it being about the same when we go back this weekend. Intensity will be high with the Championship 4 battling it out, but hopefully, we can go out there and be the ‘best of the rest’ and take the win. That would be a lot of fun to end the season that way.”
#14 Clint Bowyer (100/1)
I’m shocked that he never won at Phoenix because he loves flat tracks and won multiple times at similar tracks like Richmond and New Hampshire. He was fifth in the spring race. This will be the final race of his Cup career as he turns broadcaster for Fox next season. He’s a true character and NASCAR is going to miss him.
#20 Erik Jones (100/1)
He had some trouble in the March race with a 28th-place finish, but his career average is 15th-place. His best finish was fourth in 2017. This will be his last race with Joe Gibbs Racing as he takes over the No. 43 next season.
#6 Ryan Newman (500/1)
Phoenix has always been a good track for him starting with his USAC days when he was the Silver Bullet Series champion and he also made his Cup Series debut at Phoenix in 2000. He’s a two-time Phoenix winner and has 10 top-fives over his 35 career starts.
Top-5 Finish Prediction
1) #2 Brad Keselowski (7/2)
2) #11 Denny Hamlin (3/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (4/1)
4) #9 Chase Elliott (9/2)
5) #22 Joey Logano (9/2)
NASCAR Cup Series
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