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Chase Elliott, 24, wins first NASCAR Cup Series title

Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Chase Elliott drove from the back of the field to victory lane Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, winning his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

With the victory, the 24-year-old Elliott became the third-youngest driver to win the Cup title. Only Jeff Gordon, who earned his first title at 24 years old in 1995, and 1950 champion Bill Rexford (23 years old) were younger.

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Elliott's triumph also gave Chevrolet its first win in the title race since seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson won his final crown in 2016.

"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."

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Following the race, Elliott shared a long hug with Johnson, who was competing in his final event.

"To share a moment like that, Jimmie's last race, to win and lock [up] the championship, those are moments you can only dream, you know, and this is a dream," Elliott said. "Just hoping I don't ever wake up."

Elliott's No. 9 Chevy failed pre-race inspection, which forced him to move from the pole to the rear of the field. But he raced his way through traffic and took control of the championship event. He led seven times for a race-best 153 laps.

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In his final race, Johnson ended up in fifth -- his best finish since August.

"My heart is full," said Johnson, who is tied with Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven championships. "... Chase Elliott won his first championship. I'm so happy for that guy."

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Elliott topped fellow finalists Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano in the season-ending race, which was held at the 1-mile Arizona oval for the first time.

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