In his eighth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Ryan Blaney has finally clinched his ticket to the Championship 4. On Sunday, he took the checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway after leading 145 laps. He’s heading to Phoenix Raceway with a shot to win the 2023 title alongside Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, and William Byron on Sunday, Nov. 5. The first of those four drivers to cross the finish line at Phoenix Raceway will become the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang GT, came into Martinsville 10 points above the playoff elimination line and had finished no worse than 11th at the 0.5-mile short track since 2019. Having two prior wins at Charlotte and Talladega this year along with a sixth and second place finish in the two prior races in the Round of 8, momentum has carried the 29-year-old into victory lane and a chance at a championship.
All that is left is Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway, a track where he has two straight runner-up finishes and four consecutive top-fives.
“Yeah, just overall really proud of the whole effort,” Blaney said. “RP (Team Penske owner Roger Penske) couldn’t be here, unfortunately, but I know he’s watching. This is awesome. Can’t wait to get to Phoenix next week.”
“Our worst race of the year,” said William Byron, who was the final driver that locked himself into the Championship 4 on Sunday. “I just had to drive the hell out of it. The guys stuck with me, they kept motivating me through little bits and pieces, just kind of keeping my mind straight.”
Byron, who drives the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports, has had a career year up to this point. He’s garnered six wins, 14 top fives, and 20 top 10s, all being career-bests. He has also won at every variant of track this year, with three wins on intermediates (Las Vegas, Darlington, and Texas), one on a superspeedway (Atlanta), one at a road course (Watkins Glen), and the most recent winner at Phoenix Raceway, our 1-mile doglegged short track. His consistent speed will be put to the ultimate test at Phoenix, where he’ll look to become the third-youngest NASCAR Cup Series Champion of all time at just 25 years of age.
“I knew when I got out of the car I was just beat. But the result means more than anything. These guys work so hard. We’ve worked so hard all season. I’m just really proud of them.”
The two drivers that locked themselves into the Championship 4 before Sunday’s Xfinity 500 had quiet but solid outings at Martinsville. Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion and driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, came away with a sixth-place finish. In 2023, he has raked in four wins (five including the non-points paying All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro), 14 top fives, and 17 top 10s. And although he has collected eight total DNFs (Did Not Finishes) on the year, his successes have given him the opportunity to win a second title in two years.
After leading 201 laps in the spring at Phoenix and being the only Championship 4 driver to have already won a title in the past, Larson could join elite company and become the third current multi-time champion in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Christopher Bell left Martinsville Speedway finishing one spot behind Larson in seventh. And while he did not have the walk-off win like he did a year ago, there is plenty to look forward to for the only returning Championship 4 driver from 2022. Consistency and showing out in clutch moments have been key for the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD. Bell has amassed two wins, 10 top fives, and 19 top 10s in 2023. Keep an eye out for the 28-year-old to out-do himself from last year and become the fourth different champion in Joe Gibbs Racing’s history.
The Cup Series Playoff Standings after the Xfinity 500 are as follows:
|Rank||Driver||+ / – Cutoff|
|1||Kyle Larson (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|2||Christopher Bell (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|3||Ryan Blaney (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|4||William Byron. (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|5||Denny Hamlin (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|6||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|7||Tyler Reddick (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|8||Chris Buescher (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
NASCAR Xfinity Series Update
The Dead On Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway was a barnburner that had JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier beating Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed by a nose length and securing his shot for a championship at Phoenix as the field crashed behind them. This came after Creed and teammate Austin Hill were aggressively battling for the lead after an overtime restart that saw Allgaier as the benefactor. Allgaier became the second driver to win his way into the Championship 4 whereas Joe Gibbs Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer pointed their way in. All three will join Sam Mayer to determine who will walk away as a first-time NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion.
The Xfinity Series Playoff Standings after the Dead On Tools 250 are as follows:
|Rank||Driver||+ / – Cutoff|
|1||Sam Mayer (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|3||John Hunter Nemechek (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|4||Cole Custer (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|5||Austin Hill (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|6||Sammy Smith (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|7||Chandler Smith (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|8||Sheldon Creed (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Update
The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series set its Championship 4 lineup last week after Niece Motorsports’ Carson Hocevar took the checkered flag in the Baptist Health Cancer Care 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hocevar earned his series-best fourth win after fighting off Smith who was in a must-win situation to advance to the Championship. Smith, who originally finished second, was disqualified after post-race inspection found his No. 38 car used an unapproved windshield support. This resulted in Ben Rhodes gaining one spot more on the day which helped point his way into the Championship 4. He joins race-winner Carson Hocevar, Regular Season Champion Corey Heim, and Grant Enfinger to race for a title at Phoenix.
The CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff Standings after the Baptist Health Cancer Care 200 are as follows:
|Rank||Driver||+ / – Cutoff|
|1||Corey Heim (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|2||Carson Hocevar (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|3||Ben Rhodes (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|4||Grant Enfinger (P)||*ADVANCED*|
|5||Christian Eckes (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|6||Nick Sanchez (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|7||Zane Smith (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
|8||Ty Majeski (P)||*ELIMINATED*|
The 2023 NASCAR season has all come down to this. Watch as four drivers race for a championship in each of their three respective series’ during NASCAR Championship Weekend from Phoenix Raceway. On Friday night, Nov. 3, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series will be the first to crown their champion in the CRAFTSMAN 150 at 7 p.m. MST. Then on Saturday, Nov. 4, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will determine their title-winner under the lights in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race at 4 p.m. MST. Finally, four drivers will race for the acclaimed Bill France Cup in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. MST.
NASCAR Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Nov. 3-5
Only a limited number of tickets remain available for the 2023 NASCAR Championship Weekend, Nov. 3-5. The action on Friday, Nov. 3, includes the ARCA Menards Series West championship race, the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 100, and the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Championship Race. On Saturday, Nov. 4, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race caps a day that also includes NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying.
And then on Sunday, Nov. 5, following a pre-race concert by Diplo presents Thomas Wesley, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race will close the season in exciting fashion. Grandstand seats sold out for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race in June, but a select number of infield general admission, FanShield Infield Experience and hillside tickets remain. Grandstand seats are also going fast for Friday and Saturday’s action, so fans are encouraged to visit www.phoenixraceway.com to secure their seats while supplies last.
Phoenix Raceway PR