The Cup Series title beckons for four of NASCAR’s brightest stars. So too does a spot in NASCAR immortality.
A trip to the Valley of the Sun looms for four of NASCAR’s most talented youngsters. Only one has captured the Cup Series crown before. And although a few of the names participating in the sport’s highest-level competition may spurn the marquees, they certainly have the speed to embrace it this time around.
MORE: Date, time, TV channels for every NASCAR Cup Series race in 2023
With that, here’s what you need to know about the championship field as the Cup Series rolls into Phoenix for its final race of the year.
Blaney enjoyed a breakout 2023 campaign, thrusting himself to the upper echelons of the Cup Series standings while bringing a lengthy 59-race winless streak to a close. Long considered as the Robin to Joey Logano’s Batman in Team Penske, the No. 12 car established itself as a force to be reckoned with. Blaney won at Charlotte and followed that up with a victory at Talladega to secure his spot in the Round of 8. He had a controversial sixth-place finish at Las Vegas upheld after NASCAR found that its post-race inspection failed to meet standards. It was no matter, though; Blaney picked up his golden ticket in style, conquering all foes at Martinsville earn a spot in the title race.
Bell may not be a household name to those outside the sport. But he’s one of NASCAR’s best drivers, snagging a second straight spot in the Championship 4 for Joe Gibbs Racing. The No. 20 car finished third in 2022, falling just short of Logano and runner-up Ross Chastain. Bell etched his name into the annals of playoff history this year with a win at Miami-Homestead.
One of numerous golden boys signed to Hendrick Motorsports, Larson is the only Championship 4 driver to have ever captured NASCAR’s preeminent prize, hoisting the Cup Series championship back in 2021. He has continued to frolic along the asphalt in the years since. He picked up four wins in 2023, showcasing the sort of speed and temperament to carry him to the front of the pack. He punched his ticket to Phoenix in style, vanquishing all contenders in Las Vegas two races ago.
Byron always was going to have heightened expectations. Such is the case when you drive the No. 24 car for Hendrick Motorsports. The 25-year-old continued his reign of excellency on the track in 2023, nabbing six victories over the course of the season. He had to rely on points to make it into the championship, however; a 13th-place showing at Martinsville was enough to outlast Denny Hamlin and give him a chance at a title. Byron has two more wins than any other racer this year, and he finished the regular season as the series points leader.
The Cup Series championship race will consist of three stages and 312 laps on the one-mile track. The objective is simple: whichever championship driver finishes highest wins the Cup Series title. Points totaled during the regular season and playoffs are not applied.
More often than not, championship racers compete for the checkered flag at Phoenix. But if another driver were to pick up the win, the overall title is given to the best finisher among Championship 4 drivers.
The NASCAR Cup Series championship race is set to take place on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Cup Series championship race will be run at Phoenix Raceway, the site of each of the last three championship races.
Chase Elliott nabbed the Cup Series title at Phoenix in 2020, the first year it was held at the track. Kyle Larson wore the crown in 2021, while Joey Logano was the big winner in 2022.