Chevrolet driver William Byron (24) leads the pack across the start/finish line at Phoenix Raceway Sunday in Avondale. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)
AVONDALE – Traffic was backed up for over an hour on the Avondale Boulevard Bridge en route to Phoenix Raceway for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship to conclude the 2023 season.
In the end, Ryan Blaney beat the odds to walk away with his first Cup Championship, beating out William Byron, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, in the season-long chase for the championship.
Off the track, all the stars and bells and whistles were out, featuring WWE Hall of Famer Nikki Garcia (Nikki Bella), Bubba Wallace in full Star Wars attire and even a Stormtrooper.
The PA announcer’s signature command, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” erupted the electric crowd of more than 60,000 fans.
And the cars were off. The “Championship 4” of Byron, Bell, Larson and Blaney were followed by NASCAR’s best 32 drivers.
NASCAR legend Kevin Harvick led the way early in his last full-time race at Phoenix Raceway, where he holds the all-time record for wins with nine. Harvick eventually finished seventh on the day.
The race was tight as the cars sped around the turns and left burnt rubber on the ground.
Eventually, the inevitable time came for pit stops and the crews jumped into action. With lightning-quick speed, the cars were in and out of the pit lane within seconds.
Ross Chastain showed dominance throughout the race leading 157 laps on the day. Blaney was behind Chastain and battled for first place, but Chastain eventually secured the lead with 57 points.
Chastain may have got the victory on the day, but Blaney walked away with the ultimate prize, his first Cup Series Championship and a second in a row for Team Penske after Joey Logano’s win last season.
Larson and Byron tailed behind at third and fourth respectively, and Bell did not finish due to a right-front brake rotor failure on lap 109.