AVONDALE, Ariz. — NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season comes to a close Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway with the crowning of the Cup champion.
Here are the details for the race, how to watch, how the champ will be determined and what NBC broadcasters Rick Allen, Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be watching.
Championship 4 contenders: Kyle Larson, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell.
How the champion is determined: Whichever of those four finishes the highest Sunday wins the title. Since 2014, the champion also has won the final race of the season but that is not necessary. If all four contenders fell out of the race, the driver with the highest finish wins.
NASCAR Playoff format: After the 26th race, eligible winners and those without a win highest in points comprise the 16-driver field. The playoffs are 10 races. Four drivers are eliminated every third race. After the third round, only four remain. The championship is decided in one race.
How to watch Sunday’s race: Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. Race coverage also is on NBC and Peacock. Post-race coverage continues on Peacock. Information for how to sign up for Peacock is available here.
How many laps is the race: 312 laps
Green flag scheduled to wave: 3:32 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC and Peacock
Who won this race last year: Joey Logano
What NBC’s broadcasters will be watching in Sunday’s race:
Jeff Burton: “I’ll be looking at short-run speed vs. long-run speed and what kind of race are we going to get when it counts. We’ve seen cars being able to blast off with great take-off speed but not be so good on the long run and does that work out? Not every car and driver will win a race in the same way. You have to take advantage of the strength of your car, and you have to try to get in a situation where you cover the weaknesses up. So what are the weakness of each team, whether it’s pit stops, whatever it happens to be, short run, long run … can that get covered up with the way the race falls and who has what strength and how can they execute on that?”
Steve Letarte: “I’m going to watch the pit stops (Burton) just talked about. I think there’s a signature throughout the day. I don’t care if they lose spots, gain spots. I don’t really even care how fast they are. If you watch enough pit stops, you can tell when they’re easy and when they’re hard. It’s like a football team. You can tell when the offense is working and when it isn’t, regardless of what the stats might say. So, I’m going to be watching the pit stops to see who looks the most effortless for the first three or four because as the pressure builds, the ones that we were already on the edge of disaster, they’ll be pushed over. The ones who have been doing it very comfortably all day long, they are just sitting back. All they want is the ball. That’s the one that is going to make a difference in the end.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “We have this cool stat in the back of the Racing Insights data that talks about four-tire pit stops, average four-tire pit stops, who has best pit crew, who has had the fastest stop every race. You have to pay attention to that because you know in this moment of the season it’s when that is going to really start to come into play. It seems more often than not the pit crews help decide who wins this championship. They might not affect every race throughout the season, but they have certainly been a big player in this one. … I feel like the advantage (this weekend) is with (Ryan) Blaney. His average finish here in the Next Gen car, his ability to be competitive in the last handful of races, the momentum. I wouldn’t say that Martinsville and Phoenix are very similar, but I think that the speed that he had at Martinsville was clearly ahead of the rest of the field. Some of those components or thoughts or theories could lend themselves to being fast here. I just feel like he’s in a real good position to win a championship.”
Rick Allen: “I’m going to be watching the restarts and who is doing the best at restarts here because this is a difficult restart zone. It’s just awkward when you’re in the middle of a turn, to be getting back into the gas and racing right away but with the parameters you can’t fan out until you get to the start/finish line. I’m going to watch that. You know that, obviously, somebody has a great pit stop and they have that track position, it will be huge, but who will get so aggressive on the restart in Turns 1 and 2 and they do something crazy, dive down to the apron to try to make a pass.”