Ryan Blaney secured the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship title as Ross Chastain won the season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Ryan Blaney secured his first NASCAR Cup Series championship title win in the Sunday night race at Phoenix Raceway, although he only led two laps and finished second. Blaney’s victory was made possible by the fact that Ross Chastain who won the race, was not in title contention.
Ross Chastain won the season finale to cap off the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday. His victory broke the pattern of a driver in the championship four winning the season’s final race.
Chastain became the first non-championship driver to win the season finale following the introduction of the playoff elimination format. For Chastain, it was his second victory of the year and his fourth overall.
The 2023 champion Ryan Blaney was unaffected by the NASCAR Cup Series champion failing to win the championship race for the first time in ten years of the elimination Playoff format.
The driver of the No. 12 Ford gave Team Penske its second consecutive championship in NASCAR’s Cup series and gave Ford a clean sweep of Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway after he crossed the finish line in second place in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship season finale.
Ross Chastain picked up his second win of the year just as Blaney was gaining ground on Kyle Larson and William Byron during a 31-lap green-flag run to the finish line to win his first Cup victory on Sunday.
In a close race for the championship with 2021 champion Kyle Larson, Blaney edged the Hendrick Motorsports driver on lap 292 and took second place behind Chastain, who passed Denny Hamlin on lap 282 to take the lead.
Chastain finished 1.230 seconds ahead of Blaney, whose sense of accomplishment was unaffected by coming in second place as he was awarded the bigger prize.
“Unbelievable year, unbelievable Playoffs for us,” said Blaney. “To win back-to-back Cup titles for (team owner Roger) Penske, that’s so special.
“Having my family here, winning my first Cup title, I got emotional in the car. I’m not a very emotional guy.
“You never want to count yourself out. I mean, I think in the summer we were struggling a little bit, but we never gave up.
“We just went to work,” he added. “I’ve said that all week, like, this group goes to work, and they figure out problems.
“That’s why they’re such an amazing group to be with, with the Team Penske folks, ’cause they just put their head down and do the work, accept the challenge.”
On lap 108, Bell retired from the race; however, Blaney, Larson, and Byron finished second, third, and fourth as Blaney won by 2.243 seconds over Larson at the finish. Even though Larson beat Blaney off pit road after the last caution following Kyle Busch’s spin on lap 275 in Turn 3, Larson was unable to keep up with Blaney’s pace.
Starting from pole position, Byron won the first 60-lap stage handily, but not before Chastain, who started the race in eighth place on the grid, and third-place starter Kevin Harvick put up a fight.
Byron managed to hold Harvick off by staying ahead of him during the stage’s last three laps, as the latter placed second. Chastain was third after 60 laps, 0.584 seconds behind the winner after the stage.
After the break, Byron led by more than a second after starting from stall one on pit road. Larson, Blaney, and Bell found themselves in fourth, fifth, and sixth place, respectively after making improvements on pit road with Byron in the lead followed by Harvick and Chastain.
Bell skillfully passed Blaney for fifth place on lap 86 as a dramatic shift later happened at the front on lap 93 when Harvick passed Byron in Turns 1 and 2, gaining an advantage over him down the backstretch. Byron switched places with Blaney, who took the lead on lap 107 after losing another position to Chastain.
Bell’s race collapsed on lap 108 leaving Blaney, Byron, and Larson battling for the championship after he was eliminated from the race in 36th place due to a brake issue that caused him to crash hard into the outside wall in Turn 3.
The second caution came into effect as a result of Bell’s incident, which also offered a much-needed chance for corrections and pit stops. Chastain overtook Harvick for the lead following the restart on lap 117, and he maintained the lead for the next 54 laps, until Buescher overtook him on lap 171.
The second stage ended on lap 185, with Buescher pulling away to win. With a fourth-place finish, Byron led Blaney in sixth and Larson in seventh. However Blaney took the lead in the race as the laps were counting down.
Byron led 95 laps while Chastain led a race-high 157. Harvick led 23 laps and finished seventh in his last season as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series.