Ryan Blaney won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship in Phoenix, Arizona, for the final race of the NASCAR season. After winning the previous playoff race at the Martinsville Speedway, Blaney carried that momentum into the last race of the season and won his first-ever Cup Series Championship.
Ross Chastain crossed the checkered line in first, but because of his disqualification from earlier playoff rounds, Chastain’s pole finish did not qualify for the Cup Series Championship.
A late-race restart took place in Stage 3 of the race that shuffled up the track and gave Blaney in his No. 12 Ford Mustang the leverage he needed to get in front of competitors Kyle Larson and William Byron to win out the race. An intense battle between Larson and Blaney occurred in the last 20 laps, with Larson following closely behind Blaney’s second-place position. Blaney shared with NBC what was going through his mind just before the final restart.
“Just time to go to work, you know? We did a good job of getting where we needed to be, and those guys had two good pit stops, so just need to go to work,” Blaney said.
Blaney gifted his racing team, Team Penske, back-to-back Cup Series Championship wins after his teammate Joey Logano won the 2022 Championship.
“So proud of this team, what an unbelievable year, what an unbelievable playoff for us,” Blaney said, getting emotional while holding a thumbs up out to the crowd.
Toward the end of his post-race interview, Blaney gave a special shout-out to his Championship 4 competitors.
“Kyle and William, that was fun racing those guys all day and the 20 Bell,” Blaney said. “Racing those two guys at the end there, racing clean, that’s what racing is all about, so that was a lot of fun.”
Larson finished the race in third but took second overall for this season’s standings. Larson head-hunted Byron and Blaney in the last stage of the race in his No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro and had great pace before Blaney caught him in the last stretch. Larson explained what went wrong to cost him a first-place finish in his post-race interview.
“We weren’t the greatest on the track, but I was just hoping for pit stops because I knew the way our team executed our lights and the way our pit crew could execute a fast pit stop. I knew that was going to be our only shot really to win,” Larson said. “I was just not as good as a few guys, especially Blaney and Ross, probably.”
When asked about his season-closing thoughts, Larson gave his flowers to his team Hendrick Motorsports.
“My team did a really good job all season, so I’m extremely proud of them; we had an up and down year, and we finally put together two solid weeks in a row,” Larson said.
Byron had pole in his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro, starting at the top of the grid for the race. Byron took stage one before dropping down in stage two and losing the lead for the remaining laps. Byron finished the race in fourth and took third place overall for the season. After the race, Byron told NBC Sports what he thinks lost him and his team, Hendrick Motorsports, the win in Phoenix.
“Once the track rubbered in, we got really tight, especially when we lost the lead on the track. We just had a big balance shift and got tight back in the second through fifth. Just couldn’t gain a lot of speed through one and two,” Byron said. “It stinks to come up short, but I’d like to think we’re going to be back in this position, and we’re going to have more shots at it. We just got to keep working.”
Christopher Bell, for Joe Gibbs Racing, was the last of the Championship 4 drivers to cross the checkered line due to a mechanical issue with his No. 20 Toyota Camry that sent Bell head-first into the side of the wall, ending Bell’s chances of winning the championship. As soon as Bell’s foot made contact with his brakes, the car’s right front router exploded, damaging the wheel and sparking fire due to the wheel making contact with the caliber.
This race at the Phoenix Raceway closes out the NASCAR 2023 Cup series, with Blaney being crowned the Champion. The 2024 season starts this upcoming Feb. 4 for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.