Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR Cup Series title
By John Goolsby
Monday 6th November, 2023 - 11:33am
Ryan Blaney has won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship at Phoenix Raceway.
Ross Chastain, the race winner, picked up his fourth career win.
Team owner Roger Penske has now won back-to-back Cup championships.
The Championship 4 on arrival to the one-mile oval was Kyle Larson, Blaney, Christopher Bell, and William Byron, with the highest-finishing driver to take the crown.
Bell, Blaney, and Byron were looking for their first Cup Series championship, while Larson won the title in 2021.
The race was the last for 2014 NASCAR champion and 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick after 60 wins and 23 years in the series.
Byron got a strong start in the Hendrick Motorsports #24 Chevrolet Camaro and led all 60 green flag laps to pick up the Stage 1 win.
Harvick was second, followed by Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, and Larson.
Larson had a close call as Stage 1 came to a close when Austin Cendric made light contact with the Hendrick Motorsports #5 Chevrolet Camaro.
Byron was first off pit road, followed by Harvick, Chastain, and Larson, while Blaney slotted in eighth and Bell in ninth.
The race stayed green for 41 laps before the day’s first Caution.
Bell’s championship dreams ended with a right rotor explosion on his #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry on Lap 109.
After the Caution from Bell’s rotor explosion, Harvick led at the restart on Lap 116, followed by Chastain, Byron, Chris Buescher, Larson, Martin Truex Jnr, and Blaney.
Chastain led at the race’s halfway mark, followed by Buescher, Harvick, Truex Jnr, Byron, Blaney, and Larson.
Buescher won Stage 2, followed by Chastain and Harvick.
The running order of the three remaining championship contenders at the mandatory Caution at lap 185 was Byron in fourth, Blaney in fifth, and Larson in sixth.
The trio made up positions on pit road, and Bryon restarted on Lap 194 in second, Larson was in fourth, and Blaney was fifth.
Blaney, who had struggled with the handling of the #12 Penske Ford Mustang, passed Byron for second place with 100 laps remaining in the race.
With 69 laps remaining, Blaney came off pit road ahead of Larson and Byron following a scheduled green flag stop.
Blaney attempted to take the lead with 38 laps remaining, but a Kyle Busch spin brought out the fourth Caution of the day.
In the race off pit road, Larson was third spot, Byron was fifth, and Blaney was sixth.
Denny Hamlin elected to stay out and led the field to the green flag on the restart.
Chastain passed Hamlin on the restart to take the lead as Hamlin began falling back through the field on old tyres.
Larson took the lead briefly with 30 laps to go but settled into second behind Chastain as Blaney and Byron battled for third.
Blaney, in third, put pressure on Larson and made the pass for second place with 20 laps to go.
The two continued to battle over the next five laps before Blaney pulled out a half-a-second lead over Larson with 15 laps to go.
With five laps remaining, Blaney held a 1.4s lead over Larson while Byron trailed in fourth by 2.5s.
Blaney crossed the finish line behind Chastain and clinched his first NASCAR championship.