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  • Writer's pictureAdam Tropper

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Preview

Adam Tropper - Motorsports Today Contributor

Well it’s been an entraining 35 Cup Series races over the course of the last 9 months, and it safe to say NASCAR’s 75th season certainly did not disappoint. From underdog winners, last-lap passes, and the inaugural street race, there’s plenty to look back on. But now, after a exciting and grueling 9-week playoff span for the best stock car drivers in the world, only 4 remain in championship contention going into Phoenix this weekend. I previously wrote a playoff preview profiling the 16 drivers who were initially playoff eligible, and while most of my predictions hold true, we’ve definitely seen surprises as well. Let’s take a look to the 4 drivers who will be vying for the 2023 Bill France Cup.

Ryan Blaney

Going into the playoffs, Blaney was just the 12th seed by virtue of one win back in May (Coca-Cola 600). However, it seems as though the #12 Penske Ford has turned a corner, winning 2 of the last 9 races, and boasting a very impressive 10.3 average finish since the playoffs have begun. He is the most recent winner in the Cup Series (Martinsville) and is sneaky good at Phoenix. In 7 career races there, he has 6 tops 10s, 4 top 5s, and a runner-up finish in last-years championship race. If they show up with even a remotely similar setup to last year, don’t be surprised to be Penske win back-to-back titles.

Kyle Larson

The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports #5 Chevy will be making his second championship in three seasons. 5 top tens, 4 top fives, and 2 wins in the playoff campaign puts him in a powerful position to take the crown. Larson is the only one of the championship 4 who could cement his legacy by winning a second championship. With Cliff Daniels at the helm and a two week head start to prepare for Phoenix (by virtue of his Las Vegas win), watch out for Larson to become the 18th multi-time champion.

Christopher Bell

Bell may be NASCAR’s most clutch driver over the past two seasons, being able to win when his back is against the wall. Now he’ll have the chance to reign supreme in the most clutch situation possible This is going to be his second career (and second consecutive) season going for a championship, and this time the experience he brings with him could be enough. 6 tops tens in the playoffs thus far along with his win at Homestead prove he’s a legitimate threat. While the #20 Toyota has had documented pit crew struggles this season, you better believe Adam Stevens and Joe Gibbs Racing will bring everything they have to win it all.

William Byron

With Kevin Harvick retiring at season’s end, William Byron might officially be NASCAR’s new “closer.” Boasting a series high 6 wins during the 2023 campaign, the driver of the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy has been in position to take the win virtually every week. Byron also has the most top 5s (14), most top tens (20), and best average finish (11.2) of any driver this year. While Hendrick can’t put all their resources into Byron as his teammate is none other than championship rival Kyle Larson, expect the winner of the most recent race at Phoenix earlier this year to be the title favorite and get his first Cup Championship in only his 6th season.

Personally, I believe that this is the closest final four we’ve had in terms of competitiveness since the introduction of the playoff format a decade ago. But after a truly incredible season, no matter what happens on Sunday, it’ll be fun to watch!

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