A look at the last 12 NASCAR Cup Series season finales and how the championship played out

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will mark the conclusion of the 2022 season. Below is a look at how the last 12 NASCAR Cup Series season finales (2010-2021) have turned out:

2010 – Jimmie Johnson Tracks Down Denny Hamlin For Fifth Straight Title

Denny Hamlin held a comfortable 15-point lead on Jimmie Johnson for the championship heading into the season finale. However, Hamlin could not close out the title. Hamlin damaged his Toyota with an early-race spin and finished 14th as a result. Kevin Harvick, who was third in points entering the race, finished third. Johnson placed runner-up to take home his fifth consecutive championship.

2011 – Tony Stewart Wins Third Championship In Epic Race

Trailing leader Carl Edwards by three points entering the 2011 season finale, Tony Stewart virtually needed a win to capture the title – especially considering that Edwards ultimately finished runner-up in the race. Stewart drove to the front from the back of the field twice and edged out Edwards to get to Victory Lane. The pair finished the season tied in points, but Stewart held the tiebreaker over Edwards of most wins during the season (five to one). It was the first title for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.

2012 – Brad Keselowski Fends Off Jimmie Johnson For First Championship

Brad Keselowski entered the 2012 season finale 20 points ahead of second-place Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings. Keselowski, who won two Playoff races to help put himself in championship-clinching position, didn’t produce his best performance with a 15th-place showing at Homestead-Miami. But problems in the pits for Johnson caused the five-time champion to finish 36th and helped Keselowski secure his first championship, as well as the first title for Team Penske.

2013 – Jimmie Johnson Closes In On Earnhardt And Petty With Sixth Title

After building up his points lead on the strength of six wins, 16 top fives and 23 top 10s, Jimmie Johnson needed to finish 23rd to capture his sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship. Following an incident on a restart just shy of the 200-lap mark, Johnson ended up 23rd when it all sorted itself out. By the end of the race, he worked his way up to finish ninth, earning Hendrick Motorsports a record 11th championship.

2014 – Harvick Rides To Two ‘Do Or Die’ Victories To Earn First Series Title

Kevin Harvick started the penultimate race of the 2014 season needing a win to get into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. He dominated the contest, leading 264 laps to earn the victory and a spot in the Championship 4. After playing mind games throughout Homestead week with the rest of the field, Harvick held off runner-up Ryan Newman to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series title and the second for Stewart-Haas Racing.

2015 – Kyle Busch Overcomes Injury For Improbable Comeback

Just ninth months after breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot, Kyle Busch edged out defending champion Kevin Harvick for the Homestead race win and his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. Busch missed the first 11 races of the season after sustaining his injuries in a crash in the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona. He came back to win five races in the NASCAR Cup Series that year and cement his name in NASCAR history.

2016 – Johnson Ties Series Record With Seventh Championship

Jimmie Johnson proved once again to not count him out in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He won his way into the Round of 8 with a victory at Charlotte, then took the checkered flag at Martinsville to punch his ticket to Homestead. He provided a walk-off win at Homestead to capture his seventh championship, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the NASCAR Cup Series record.

2017 – Martin Truex Jr. Earns First Championship

Driving for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing, Truex turned a career-best season into a championship for the ages. His victory in the Homestead finale was a personal best eighth on the year. He led the final 34 laps and held off a hard charging Kyle Busch by .681-seconds to earn the trophy hoist. It was an emotional victory with team owner, Barney Visser recovering from a recent heart attack back in Denver and Truex’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex trackside after a year of major medical obstacles.

2018 – Joey Logano Wins First Championship

After qualifying for the Championship 4 in the Round of 8 opening race at Martinsville Speedway, the 28-year old Logano headed to Homestead-Miami largely considered the “underdog” to 2018’s “Big 3” – Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. The threesome (Busch, 9, Harvick, 8 and Truex, 4) won 21 of the first 35 races in 2018. However, the Team Penske driver grabbed his opportunity and took it to the Big 3, winning the season finale by a sizable 1.7-seconds over Truex, Harvick and Busch and taking his career first NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy – Team Penske’s second.

2019 – Kyle Busch grabs second title, fifth for JGR

After putting up four wins early in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, Kyle Busch went winless for 21 races. He pointed his way into the Championship 4 but when his back was against the wall he answered and won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway passing Kevin Harvick in the closing laps and the holding off his hard charging Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. by 4.578-seconds to win his second championship. With the feat, Busch became just the second active multiple champion joining Jimmie Johnson (seven titles). The title was also the fifth for Joe Gibbs Racing – Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).

2020 – Chase Elliott comes from the rear to win first title at Phoenix

After putting up just two wins during the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series regular season, Chase Elliott stepped up his game in the Playoffs winning at the Charlotte Road Course to advance to the Round of 8 and then winning the penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway to earn his spot in the Championship 4 Round. Elliott and the No. 9 team would head to Phoenix for the season finale only to lose their first starting position to multiple pre-race inspection failures. But the setback didn’t hold Elliott down, instead it made even more hungry for the title. He methodically worked his way through the field taking the lead for the first time in the event on Lap 79 of 312. Elliott would go on to hold off a hard charging Brad Keselowski to win the race by 2.740-seconds. With the feat, Elliott became seventh active champion. The title was also a series leading 13th for Hendrick Motorsports.

2021 – Kyle Larson dominates Phoenix to win first Cup championship

Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson was dominant all season long putting up five wins and winning the Regular Season Championship. The California native entered the 2021 Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 52 Playoffs points. Larson would then proceed to tie Tony Stewart’s Playoff record for the most wins in single NASCAR Cup Series postseason run with five victories, including the season finale race at Phoenix Raceway. Larson showed up to the Valley of the Sun as the odds favorite and he didn’t disappoint. Larson won the pole and then led a race-high 107 laps en route to the win and his first NASCAR Cup Series title. With the feat, Larson became eighth active champion at the time (prior to Kurt Busch stepping away from fulltime racing this season). The title was also a series leading 14th for Hendrick Motorsports.

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