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NASCAR Championship Weekend begins in Phoenix

The NASCAR Cup Series Championship can be seen Sunday on WCNC Charlotte beginning at 4 p.m.

PHOENIX — Chase Elliott was supposed to be the king this season in NASCAR.

He's the reigning Cup champion and NASCAR's most popular driver, but he's been overshadowed by new teammate Kyle Larson. Elliott has two victories this year, but Larson has a series-high nine wins. 

The two race Sunday at Phoenix Raceway in a winner-take-all championship final four that includes Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. 

Elliott says he would never be critical of Larson's first-year success with the team, but he knows the fight isn't over until the checkered flag at Phoenix, where he's the defending race winner.

Credit: AP
Driver Chase Elliott speaks during media day ahead of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series championship auto race on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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Hamlin oozed confidence Thursday at NASCAR's championship contenders event ahead of Sunday's title-deciding season finale. It will be his fifth attempt at winning his first NASCAR championship and he said he's never been more prepared. 

Hamlin said he performs at his best when his life is in chaos, and created some for himself ahead of the finale by feuding with Alex Bowman last week at Martinsville.

Meanwhile, reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott struggled through the day with a hoarse voice from cheering on the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

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NBC Sports coverage begins Saturday on NBCSN with the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

 AJ Allmendinger is trying to win that race Saturday night. He says there is a bigger prize to win in his family. Tara Allmendinger is is the reigning Mrs. North Carolina and she's trying to become Mrs. America at the Nov. 20 pageant in Las Vegas. 

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AJ Allmendinger is one of four drivers vying for the championship Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. Defending series champion Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric are also seeking the championship.

Sunday coverage begins with the NASCAR Cup Series Countdown to Green at 2:30 p.m. on WCNC Charlotte. Race coverage follows on WCNC Charlotte at 4 p.m.