CONCORD, N.C. – There is a unique opportunity in front of Hendrick Motorsports this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway.
Chase Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team will be competing against Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain and Joey Logano for the driver’s championship. The No. 5 HendrickCars.com team and driver Kyle Larson will be battling against the same three drivers and teams as Elliott for the owner’s championship.
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The driver and owner’s titles being split is a special scenario that has unfolded only two other times but not since 1963. The first instance came in 1954.
"In an ideal situation, we could go out and run one-two and get them both," team owner Rick Hendrick said during a media availability on Tuesday afternoon. "When Kyle (Larson) got knocked out, I never thought about the owner’s championship at that point, and then he won the race in Homestead-Miami (Speedway) and that qualified him.
"We're not going to approach the race any different than we have any week. Both cars are going to try to win. We'll just go out and do the best we can and see where it all ends up."
Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon has his eyes on three potential victories.
"The ultimate for Hendrick Motorsports would be to win the owner's and driver's championships and have one of our other teams win the race. We could be spread pretty thin because we are celebrating a lot in that case," Gordon theorized.
While Larson was eliminated from the driver's championship following the Round of 12, the No. 5 team advanced on in the owner’s championship. The dominating performance at Homestead-Miami on Oct. 23 locked them into the Championship 4 on the owner’s side.
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On the driver’s side, Elliott entered the playoffs as the regular-season champion but has had an up-and-down postseason. Each opening round race left the driver of the No. 9 in a precarious spot, but he was able to overcome that later in the rounds. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native’s win at Talladega Superspeedway gave him five victories on the season – which matches his season-best mark from his championship year of 2020. A strong points day at Martinsville Speedway thanks to two second-place finishes in the opening two stages pushed Elliott into the Championship 4.
"It's one of those deals that you just put all that behind you," Hendrick said of the No. 9's playoff results to date. "You run good at Phoenix (Raceway), you've won that race, you've won the championship there."
In all three seasons that the championship has been held at Phoenix, Elliott has reached the Championship 4. The first year that the 1-mile track hosted the title race, the now 26-year-old driver was crowned a champion. He is looking to become the 17th multi-time champion in Cup Series history.
"He's ready for this race," Hendrick said. "He wants to win another championship, and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) is burning up to win another one, too."
Hendrick Motorsports has won the last two driver’s and owner’s championships with Elliott and the No. 9 team taking both honors in 2020 followed by Larson and the No. 5 team winning both in 2021. Over the company’s storied history, the organization has won 14 Cup Series championships.
PHOTOS: See every Cup Series championship won at Hendrick Motorsports
"Thankfully we've got two opportunities," Hendrick said. "…We're excited to have the opportunity. It's always tough to get there, and if you've got a car that's able to compete there, you're very fortunate."
Tune in to watch the season finale at Phoenix at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).