The season comes down to one race on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, with the youngest Championship 4 (average age 28 years, 11 months, 22 days) set to duke it out in the desert. Looking back at the three previous races at Phoenix, all in the Next Gen car, one thing becomes apparent: William Byron and Ryan Blaney have finished better than Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.
Byron won the Phoenix race in the spring of 2023, with Blaney finishing runner-up and Larson (fourth) and Bell (sixth) not far behind. Blaney finished runner-up last fall at Phoenix when Byron came in sixth place and Larson and Bell were ninth and 10th, respectively.
And finally, Blaney was fourth in the inaugural run for the Next Gen car on the 1-mile track in the spring of 2022 when Byron (18th), Bell (26th) and Larson (34th: engine) all had subpar days.
What will happen when these four tee it up one more time? Let’s take a deeper dive into the numbers before Sunday’s showdown for the Bill France Cup (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
WILLIAM BYRON: This is Byron and crew chief Rudy Fugle’s first Championship 4 appearance, but the No. 24 team can hang its hat on these stats: Best average finish among Champ 4 drivers not only for this season (11.17) but also for the playoffs (6.33). Plus, Byron is the most recent winner at Phoenix and has spent the most laps running in the top five here in the Next Gen car (621).
KYLE LARSON: This is Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels’ second Championship 4 appearance as they return after winning the title in 2021. Despite lagging behind Byron and Blaney at Phoenix in the Next Gen car, Larson’s career numbers at the track are better, with an average finish of 11.72. Plus, when looking at the 2023 season as a whole, Larson has finished the best among this group the most times (14).
RYAN BLANEY: Blaney is the hottest of this group of drivers when it comes to finishes at Phoenix (two straight runner-ups) and finishes in the last two playoff races (runner-up and first). This is he and crew chief Jonathan Hassler’s first Championship 4, but if the hot streak continues, Blaney could become the first driver of the No. 12 to win the Cup championship.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Bell has some experience on his side in the form of last year’s Championship 4 appearance and with crew chief Adam Stevens, who will be making his seventh appearance in the Championship 4. Bell has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five Phoenix races, but his best finish overall was the sixth place he scored in March. It will probably take a finish better than sixth to take home the title.
Projections as of Sunday, Nov. 5:
RACING INSIGHTS’ PROJECTIONS FOR THE PHOENIX CHAMPIONSHIP RACE
Racing Insights’ advanced statistical formula includes current track, current track type, recent performance, team data and pit-crew data to arrive at a projected winner and full race results.
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.