Phoenix Raceway, Phoenix, AZ — November 6, 2022
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship will be decided today at Phoenix Raceway. Four drivers will enter the race with a chance to be crowned NASCAR Champion. One of the most difficult titles to earn in the world of sports.
After 35 races, three rounds of playoffs, three elimination races, one driver taking the checkered flag in two must-win situations, and one driver qualifying with a Hail-Mary move that will be replayed every time the NASCAR Playoffs are mentioned. It is the culmination of an incredible season that began with the introduction of a new race car back in February.
The Next-Gen car lived up to expectations in a spectacular way by leveling the playing field. There have been 19 different drivers posting a win in the Cup Series this year, tying the modern-era record set in 2001. Will there be a 20th unique winner at Phoenix to break the record, or will one of the Championship Four take the title with a victory?
Since the latest version of the playoffs began in 2014, the Champion has won the final race of the year to clinch the trophy. Expect that trend to continue today.
Who Gets the Win
Ross Chastain(1) is fresh off his incredible video game move that earned him a spot in the Championship Four. It is estimated the highlight videos have been viewed 100 million times worldwide.
Chastain has never won a Cup Series Championship but proved he is hungry for it and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Christopher Bell(20) won at the Charlotte Roval when he could not advance on points from the round of 12 to the round of eight. Then again, at Martinsville, he repeated the feat. Bell won to advance to the Championship Four. However, the victory was overshadowed by the Chastain ride-the-wall drive to qualify on points. He also has never won a Cup title.
Chase Elliott(9), the sport’s most popular driver, won the Championship in 2020 and was the regular-season champion. The bonus points earned during the first 26 races of the year have carried him through the first three rounds of the playoffs. Today points don’t matter. Whichever of the four qualifiers finishes the highest will take the crown.
Joey Logano(22) may well be the favorite. The Ford Mustang driver for Team Penske won the pole and has competed in more Championship races than any of his three other challengers.
This marks the fifth time Logano has made it to the Championship 4, and, ironically, they have all come in even years (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022)…Logano has three wins this season and a victory in the season-opening Clash at the Coliseum in the debut race for the Next Gen Mustang. His regular season wins came at Darlington, Gateway, and Las Vegas.
This is the seventh time in 10 seasons that Logano has won two or more races in a season. He has 28 career wins with Team Penske, making him the organization’s all-time winningest driver. Those 28 victories put him sixth on the all-time Ford Cup Series win list. In 27 starts at Phoenix Raceway, he has two wins, seven top-5, and 15 top-10 finishes.
Who is Good at Phoenix
A total of 11 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Phoenix Raceway. Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff race wins at Phoenix Raceway with four victories (2006, 2012, 2013, and 2014). Since hosting the series’ Championship Race, beginning in 2020, the winner of the race has also won the NASCAR Cup Series title – Chase Elliott won at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 8, 2020, and Kyle Larson won at Phoenix on Nov. 7, 2021.
Kevin Harvick is the all-time winningest driver at Phoenix.
|Active Phoenix Race Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Kevin Harvick||9||2018, 2016, 2015, 2014 sweep, 2013, 2012, 2007 sweep|
|Kyle Busch||3||2019, 2018, 2005|
|Joey Logano||2||2020, 2016|
|Denny Hamlin||2||2019, 2012|
|Martin Truex Jr||1||2021|
Phoenix is a one-mile race track, 312 miles make up the distance they will run today. Stages are divided into 60/125/127 laps. The starting positions for the Championship Four are Logano-first, Elliott-fifth, Bell-17th, and Chastain-25th.
It was announced early Sunday that Ty Gibbs, winner of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship in the race last night at Phoenix, would not drive the #23 car for 23XI racing. Gibbs had been subbing for Kyle Busch since his injury earlier in the year at Pocono. The statement said simply that “Due to a family emergency, Ty Gibbs will not be racing today at Phoenix Raceway. In his place, Daniel Hemric will be competing in the No. 23 car.
It was revealed just prior to the race that Coy Gibbs, Ty’s father and team owner Joe Gibb’s son, had passed during the night.
“It is with great sorrow that Joe Gibbs Racing confirms that Coy Gibbs (co-owner) went to be with the Lord in his sleep last night. The family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers and asks for privacy at this time.”
NBC announcer Steve Letarte will miss the broadcast today after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. It was reported he is out of the hospital and doing well.
The messages put a damper on the festive atmosphere of the sell-out crowd on hand for the culmination of the racing season.
Anticipation for the Championship Race
Below are quotes from the four drivers and the team owners that have qualified for this season’s Championship 4 Round at Phoenix Raceway this weekend.
Joey Logano. …on his chances this weekend at Phoenix:
“Yeah, I feel great about our chances,” said Logano. “Honestly, I don’t really care who else is in. It’s about the No. 22 team winning a second title. That’s what it’s about. We just got to do our job and stay focused on us. Like I said, today we did what we needed to do to be prepared. We’ve had three weeks to think about our race car and, how we want to play the race out, how we want to run practice. We’ve had the opportunity to really, really dive deep into Phoenix, so we’ll take that to our advantage and move on.”
Walter Czarnecki. … on winning the INDYCAR and NASCAR Cup Series title in the same season:
“Yeah, thank you, that’s a great question,” said Czarnecki. “I was actually looking at some statistics earlier in the week, and since 1967, we have been multiple champions in seven years, seven seasons, and in three of those seasons, we won three championships. So, it was either an INDYCAR championship, NASCAR Xfinity owners’ championship, Australian Supercars championship, NASCAR Cup Series, but never, to your point, INDYCAR and Cup. It really would be something that — it would be one of our goals to do it, particularly this year, so you’re absolutely right.”
“We’ve been blessed with good teams all those years, been able to accomplish a lot, but still a little bit more to do, and as I said, this will be one of our goals, to win the Cup and win the INDYCAR in the same year.”
Christopher Bell. … on his mindset heading into Phoenix:
“Yeah, I mean, this next week (at Phoenix) is easy,” said Bell. “We don’t have to focus on stage points or where we’re at compared to everyone else. It’s just one race. Like Adam (Stevens) said, whoever brings the best car and executes the best is going to win the race and the championship. Whatever happens, happens, and I’m very proud to be in this position. The sport is all about people. Fortunately for me I ended up with the best people around me.”
Joe Gibbs. … on his outlook heading into this weekend at Phoenix:
“I think he’s (Christopher Bell) got one out of four chances to win that (laughing),” said Gibbs. “I think that’s probably what everybody is going to say. It is extremely tough. When you get to this point, and you think about who’s sitting there, who he’s going to have to race against, those three other competitors from great organizations, I think it’s going to be extremely hard.”
“I think the way our Playoffs are designed, it does bring a lot of excitement to it, every three races, dropping out four cars. Now we’re down to just four. I think our fans love this format and the way it’s designed. It brings a lot of pressure into the situation, and I think we love — everybody loves to — one of the things we love with sports and one of the things we love about pro sports, it’s so hard. It’s the greatest reality show in the world. We don’t know. We’re going to go to Phoenix, and there’s going to be four great organizations, drivers competing with their crew chiefs and their teams and their pit crews. I think it’s going to be just a great weekend for us.”
Ross Chastain. … on his path to this point in his career:
“I needed time,” said Chastain. “Those team owners through Trucks, Xfinity, and Cup that gave me the time, I owe so much to. That’s through the middle part of what I call my career here in NASCAR.”
“If you just go back two years, the fall Southern 500 at Darlington, I went there with Spire Motorsports. They bought sticker tires for the whole weekend. We had a podcast sponsoring us through T-shirts that we sold that didn’t even have my name on it. I got to go race the fall Darlington race in a Cup car to keep building my notebook. We won our race. We beat the car we wanted to beat that day. That was two years ago. We came back this year, and we had chances to win both Darlington races last fall. In the 42, we had chances to win the Southern 500.”
“If you go back two calendar years, I was the guy five laps down, seven laps down, something like that. Those were good nights. Those were wins in our book. Those moments, those nights, and those races, those laps, are a big reason why I feel like I’m able to do what I can do now.”
Justin Marks. … on the organization after making the Championship 4 for the first time:
“Yeah, it’s just kind of — I want to say it’s business as usual,” said Marks. “Obviously, this is the pinnacle of the sport, and this is what everybody dreams of, the opportunity that everybody dreams of having.”
“What does it mean to be here? It’s incredibly humbling,” said Marks. “To be in this spot right now, I can’t help but be very reflective of my journey as a race fan and then as a driver and then as an owner. It’s very, very surreal and humbling to be in this spot, especially for Trackhouse to be competing with true legends of the sport this weekend in Phoenix chasing glory.”
“At the end of the day, I think the overwhelming emotion that I have is just how proud I am of everybody at this company, how much everybody is committed to this vision, believed that this was possible, and have worked every hour of every day since this place turned into Trackhouse Racing with the belief in that vision and chasing it.”
Chase Elliott. … on making the Championship 4 Round this season:
“Yeah, super mixed emotions,” said Elliott. “We made the driver’s side and didn’t make the owner’s side. Just would have loved to have gotten the boss two cars in there. So certainly, excited from the driver’s standpoint, but would have loved to have gotten both those boxes checked. Unfortunately, didn’t.”
“But, yeah, looking forward to getting home and working through what we need to work through to get ready for Phoenix. Certainly, we’ll be ready to go the best we know how next Sunday.”
Rick Hendrick. … on the Next Gen car and the parity in the sport in 2022:
“Yeah, absolutely. The car has made it super competitive on any given day, anybody can win,” said Hendrick. “You’ve seen all these different winners this year. Nobody has really just dominated the sport. The parity is really unreal.”
“I think NASCAR got what they wanted. We’re all trying to figure it out a little bit better each and every week. But boy, you just look at the lead changes and how many people are up there running up front, and you always expect to see coach up there and Roger, and Trackhouse has done an unbelievable job.”
“And you look at other teams like Petty, and I think Brad and his team, they’re going to be contenders next year.
So, I think it’s leveled the playing field, and it’s good for the sport. I think the fans love it.”
Enough said, it is time to go racing. The prize awaits.
Logano easily drove off with the lead into turn one. Ryan Blaney(12), who started on the front row next to his teammate, may be the best candidate to become that 20th winner. The two Fords quickly grew the interval back to the remainder of the field to almost a half-second over third place.
Logano led the entire first Stage without a challenge. Blaney held on to the second spot, and Chase Elliott was the only other playoff driver in the top 10, finishing the Stage in sixth.
Stage One Results
|1||22||Joey Logano* (P)||10|
|5||19||Martin Truex Jr.||6|
|6||9||Chase Elliott (P)||5|
|10||2||Austin Cindric *||1|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Logano was first off the pit road to maintain the lead. Elliott came out in the sixth position, with Bell ninth and Chastain in 10th. Kyle Larson(5) restarted second and held the spot as cars fought for positions. Martin Truex Jr.(19), William Byron(24), and Chase Briscoe(14) rounded out the top five.
Stage Two is over twice as long as the first Stage and will require a stop for fuel to complete the 125 laps.
Landon Cassill(77) hit the wall out of turn two and collected Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) on lap 84, bringing out the caution. Not far enough into the Stage to allow teams to make it to the end of the Stage. Still, everyone opted to come in for fresh tires and to top off with Sunoco racing gasoline.
Cole Custer(41) and Michigan’s Erik Jones(43) just changed two tires. Custer exited pit road with the lead. Logano lined up behind Jones for the restart and quickly passed, diving low into the dogleg of turn one to pass on the flat inside section of the track.
Blaney worked his way through traffic to take the second spot, and the two Fords again began to pull away from the rest of the field.
Elliott was the first of the Championship Four to pit with 31 laps to go in Stage Two. The stop put him one lap down to the other three contenders. With 26 laps to go, Blaney passed Logano for the lead. Logano, Bell, and Chastain’s crews were rolling the dice that the fuel they took during the earlier caution would be enough to get them to the end of the Stage.
Elliott unlapped himself with 14 laps to go in the stage, and his crew let out a big sigh of relief. The other three crew chiefs are now holding their breath that they can make it to the Stage break by conserving fuel.
Logano’s crew told him to stop shifting to save gas and allow cars to pass if necessary. The danger is if they run out of fuel with less than two laps to go, they will not be able to come to pit road as NASCAR closes it down at that point.
Everyone managed to squeeze enough fuel out of their tank to make it to the break.
Stage Two Results
|2||22||Joey Logano* (P)||9|
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||8|
|6||20||Christopher Bell (P)||5|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Blaney was the first out of the pits. Logano was fifth, and Elliott sixth when the green flag dropped. But Tyler Reddick(8), and Michael McDowell(34) spun by the time they got back to complete a lap, and the caution displayed again.
This time Logano restarts in fifth, Elliott in sixth, Chastain in the seventh position, and Bell in eighth. After taking the green flag, Chastain went low to pass, and Elliott came down to block. The cars collided, and Elliott spun, hitting the turn-one wall.
Elliott’s crew was able to repair the damage. However, Elliott lost a lap in the process and complained the car did not feel right when he got back to racing speed.
After the race resumed, Blaney was back out front, and Chase Briscoe(14) sat in second. Logano still led the Championship Four running third, and Chastain trailed back in sixth. Bell, complaining of a possible engine issue, ran in the eighth spot. While Elliott fell another lap behind in 30th and out of contention for the title.
When Chastain came around to lap Elliott, his crew told him to be aware of potential retaliation. Elliott had the opportunity to pay him back, but he held his line and allowed Chastain to pass without incident.
The Final Pit Stop
Crews planning for the final pit stop kept a close on the three lead lap competitors. It is likely when one of them pits, the other two will follow in short order.
Bell came in with 62 laps to go, and Chastain followed one lap later. Logano followed suit on the next lap. Logano returned to the race track just in front of Bell. Chastain had the slowest pit stop as his crew had trouble with one of the tires. It cost him dearly as he trailed the other two drivers by five seconds.
With 45 laps to go, McDowell made contact with Alex Bowman(48), causing Bowman to spin and hit the wall. This was Bowman’s first race back since suffering concussion symptoms after an accident at Texas Motor Speedway.
The yellow flag gave all the teams an opportunity to pit one more time for fresh tires. During the caution, Brad Keselowski’s car caught on fire. A repeat of the problem that appeared earlier on the Next-Gen cars with rubber build-up inside the wheel wells.
Logano exited the pits in third, with Chastain in seventh. Bell’s crew had trouble with the left rear tire, and he returned to the track in the 15th position.
The restart with 33 laps to go could not have worked better for Logano as he took second from Blaney into turn one. He then passed Briscoe for the race lead, and with nothing but clean air in front of him, Logano began to pull away.
While Blaney and Briscoe fought for the second spot, Chastain was stuck behind them in fourth place. With 20 laps to go, Logano was a second ahead of Blaney and over two seconds ahead of Chastain, who was making a pass on Briscoe.
Blaney cut into Logano’s lead, closing within a car length. However, The lead over Chastain remained at two seconds plus. With under 10 laps to go, Chastain began to cut into the interval. However, to make a run at the title, he will have to get past Blaney, Logano’s teammate. That will not be an easy pass.
Logano holds on for the win, becoming a two-time NASCAR Champion. A true indication of how dominant Logano was? Of the 312 laps run, Logano was in front of the other three championship contenders for 311 of them.
Chastain finished third, Bell in the 10th spot, and Elliott in the 28th position. It was the first time in the history of Team Penske that they won the Indy Car Championship and the NASCAR Cup Series Championship in the same season.
Logano took time during his television interview to offer condolences to the Gibbs family for the tragic loss of Coy.
It was a strong day for Ford Performance. In addition to the race win, Blaney in second, Briscoe in fourth, and Kevin Harvick(4) in fifth gave the Blue Oval four of the top five positions at Phoenix.
Results of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race
|1||22||Joey Logano (P)||—||312|
|3||1||Ross Chastain (P)||1.268||312|
|10||20||Christopher Bell (P)||7.311||312|
|15||19||Martin Truex Jr.||12.513||312|
|28||9||Chase Elliott (P)||-2||310|
|32||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-5||307|