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5 Intriguing Stats from the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs

Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: Los Angeles Times

With another season of NASCAR done and dusted, another new champion has been crowned in Ryan Blaney, after a thrilling finale at Phoenix.

Despite a Blaney win touted as a great upset in comparison to the trio of Championship 4 drivers, Blaney put it all together when it mattered, emerging on top. However, aside from the nail-biting finale, a few more headlines just missed the spotlight.

  1. First Non-Championship 4 Winner

Ever since the inception of the Playoff format in 2014, the final race has been a winner-takes-all. With this in mind, the Championship 4 drivers typically go all-out to not only beat the other three, but also win the race. Thus, a Championship 4 driver has always won the finale races at Homestead and Phoenix since 2014.

However, for the first time, a non-playoff driver won the final race of the season.

Having been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, Trackhouse’s Ross Chastain avenged his losses by taking victory at Phoenix, while champion Blaney finished second. Chastain engaged in a race-long battle for victory among Byron, Blaney, and fellow non-playoff driver Truex, taking a well-deserved win.

Credit: New Mexico Motorsports Repost
  1. Few Wins for Blaney

On the flip side, eventual champion Ryan Blaney tied a record of his own in Phoenix. En route to his maiden championship, he tied the playoff record for fewest wins in a championship season, with just three victories throughout the season.

His first victory came in the Coca-Cola 600, emerging on top in a race-long battle with many drivers. Though the win broke a long winless streak, it was after this race his results began to plummet, only notching four top tens from Gateway to Daytona.

However, once the playoffs began, a switch flipped for the driver in the #12 car. After a relatively average first round that saw him point his way into the second round, another win at Talladega was the spark he needed to ignite a title run. In the five races that remained after Talladega, Blaney achieved four top tens, one of them being a win at Martinsville.

When Blaney crossed the line second at Phoenix to win the title, it tied a playoff win record for NASCAR. Only having three wins to his credit, his season win total is tied for the lowest by a champion, not only in the playoff era, but the driver he tied the record was his teammate Joey Logano, who also won only three races on his way to what was a maiden title.

  1. Sweeping the Round

For Christopher Bell, this is a record he won’t want to harp on too much. During the Round of 16, Bell took pole in each of the three races: Darlington, Kansas, and Bristol. With the last driver to do this being Kyle Larson in 2021, this was inspiring for the #20, seeing as Larson went on to win that year’s title.

However, despite incredible runs at Las Vegas and Homestead, a brake rotor failure would send Bell’s championship hopes out the window. For now, Bell will hold the distinction as the only driver to sweep playoff poles without a title.

  1. Bad Luck Bell

Speaking of that brake rotor failure, Bell going out of the race is a rarity for the playoff format.

Credit: Jayski

From 2017 to 2022, every Championship 4 driver went on to finish the finale, usually well within the top ten. Considering these four drivers are supposed to be the most consistent, in the most reliable machinery, it’s no shock that DNFs from the four are a rarity.

However, Christopher Bell’s DNF at Phoenix was the first time a Championship 4 driver failed to finish, since the 2016 Homestead finale. In that Homestead race held different circumstances though, as Carl Edwards put a poor block on Joey Logano, sending him hard into the inside and outside walls.

Different circumstances or not, Bell’s DNF broke a seven-year streak.

  1. RFK’s Success

On opposing ends of fortune, Roush Fenway-Keselowski have a lot to celebrate, following the 2023 season.

Prior to 2023, the last time a Roush car made it into the playoffs was 2017, when Ricky Stenhouse took two victories at Talladega and Daytona, but this only amounted to a first-round exit. Furthermore, the last time a Roush car made it past the first round was Carl Edwards, only making it into the Round of 12.

2023, though, broke personal playoff records for Roush. Now rebranded as RFK, Chris Buescher took three victories this season. This is already nothing to scoff at, as it was the highest amount of victories by an individual Roush entry since 2008, Carl Edwards’s dominant season.

On top of Buescher winning his way in, part-owner Brad Keselowski got into the playoffs on points, marking the first time Roush had both entries qualify for the playoffs.

And adding on to an already fantastic year for them, Buescher made a deep playoff run into the Round of 8, Roush’s deepest playoff run since the format’s inception.


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