Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s most popular driver, and driver of the NAPA Auto Parts No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, is now a cup champion.

Just weeks shy of his 25th birthday, this weekend Chase won the Series Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway, earning him his first career NASCAR Cup Series championship. At 24 and 11 months, he’s the third youngest champion in NASCAR’s premier series in 25 years.

Chase is the third youngest driver to claim a NASCAR Cup, behind Jeff Gordon and Bill Rexford champions at 24 and 23, respectively.

“I just never would have thought that this year would have gone like it has,” Elliott said. “I mean, NASCAR Cup Series champion, are you kidding me? Unreal.”

He shared a long hug with teammate Jimmie Johnson, who joined Elliott for the victory celebration. “Oh my gosh, I mean, to share a moment like that, Jimmie’s last race, to win and lock the championship,” said Elliott, “those are moments you can only dream, you know, and this is a dream.

“Just hoping I don’t ever wake up.”

The race didn’t start as planned for Chase, with his car failing pre-race inspection, with a severe penalty costing him pole position, sending him to the rear. Despite this setback, Elliott made his way back to the front of the pack, leading seven times for a race-high 153 laps.

As the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, who won the 1988 Championship and 16 time fan-voted NASCAR’s most popular driver, Chase had great expectations of one day winning his own NASCAR title, which has now become a reality.

The race completed NASCAR’s frenzied 38-race schedule that was overhauled because of the pandemic. The season was suspended five days after NASCAR raced at Phoenix in March, a race won by Logano, and the engines idled for 10 weeks. But facing crippling financial losses to the teams and the industry, NASCAR was one of the first sports to resume competition. NASCAR went racing again May 17 and used doubleheaders, midweek races and a massive scheduling shuffle to complete the season for all three of its national series.

For the finale, the first one at NASCAR’s owned and remodeled Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR loosened its “bubble” and allowed families and guests for the first time since the previous race at Phoenix.

Congratulations to Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports and NAPA Auto Parts Racing.

Original stories and imagery sourced from ESPN, ESPN, Nascar and Nascar.