Written By Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
After 35 races across the United States of America, the NASCAR field arrives in Phoenix, Arizona, for the final race of the season. Of the final four contestants — Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, and William Byron, who can bring home the championship trophy?
Martinsville 500 Race Debrief
A grueling race in Martinsville saw Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr, and Tyler Reddick eliminated from contention. Hamlin came close to winning his way into the championship four, but ultimately finished third. Buescher was stuck in the midfield for most parts of the race, and finished only eighth.
As for Truex, he started off the race on pole, but a pit road speeding penalty at the end of stage two sent him to the rear of the field. In the end, he finished 12th, in a disappointing day for the #19 team. Lastly, Reddick had his usual Martinsville struggle, and finished in an abysmal 26th.
In the late stages of the race, Aric Almirola overtook for the lead with 90 laps to go, but conceded the lead to Ryan Blaney with 20 laps to go. Blaney led the way for the last 20 laps of stage three, and brought home the win, securing his third win of the season, and a precious spot in the championship four.
The Championship Four include Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney and William Byron. Playoff points will not factor in for the championship race, with all drivers starting the race on 5000 points.
The Phoenix Raceway is a tri-oval located in the metro area of Phoenix City, and is a mile (1.61 kilometers) long track. It has a 8-9 degree banking in the first turn, followed by a 10-11 degree banking on the second turn. This race track also hosted a race in early March, which saw William Byron take the race win.
Its low banking presents challenges for the drivers on turns, as you can easily slide up into the walls in the turns. The geographical location is also grueling for the drivers, with weather forecasts predicting 87 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, and this could be even hotter in the raceway.
It has been the penultimate race of the season since the first iteration of this event. However, since 2020, it has replaced Homestead as the championship race, and this year will mark its fourth season hosting the championship race.
The drivers will race around the track for 312 laps, with 75 laps in stage one, 115 in stage two, and finally, 122 laps to round off the final stage. The race will commence on November 5th, Sunday, at 15:00 ET (12:00 PT, 21:00 CEST).
This is it. The final race of the season where the winner takes all. If anyone has the best odds at the title, it would be Kyle Larson. He has the most experience among the quartet, and won a championship earlier in Phoenix, back in 2021. He will be looking to repeat that performance from 2021, and with one of the best — if not the best pit crews within the field, he has the best odds at the title.
However, there were multiple times throughout the season where Larson wrecked himself out of the lead. If he can limit his mistakes, he has the best odds of victory.
William Byron, on the other hand, suffered a poor Round of Eight, barely scraping into the championship four, but he can turn all of that around with yet another win in Phoenix. As mentioned above, he won in Phoenix earlier this season, so he is familiar with what it takes to win the race. If he can bring his best performances to Phoenix, he will be the car to beat.
After six seasons of barely missing out on the championship four, he finally makes the cut for 2023. Byron will have the full support from all of his fellow Fords, and historically, has a tendency of performing outstandingly in Phoenix, all working greatly to his advantage.
On the other hand, Blaney has been one of the most inconsistent drivers on the field, going from three consecutive top ten finishes, to three consecutive finishes at the tail end. If he can hold the momentum, and keep his foot on the gas, all whilst keeping a cool head, he will have a shot at the title.
Last but not least, Christopher Bell is on yet another run for the championship, and he is at a disadvantage. Throughout the season, the pit crew have made a lot of mistakes, causing Bell to fall out of contention. Bell also suffered from inconsistencies, going from top five finishes in one week, to DNFs or back of the field in the next.
However, he still has one of the best crew chiefs in the field, while having a car possessing immense raw pace. Bell making it all the way to the championship four is also a testament to his skills as a driver. If anyone is trusted to bring Toyota their first championship since 2019, Christopher “Mr Clutch” Bell would be the one.