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Everything You Need to Know About NASCAR’s Championship Drivers

nascar championship four
NASCAR's 2023 Championship Four ContendersIllustration by Stephen Omark

The four drivers competing for this year’s NASCAR Cup Series championship all got here in different ways.

Kyle Larson’s had a self-described “up-and-down season.” It took Ryan Blaney until May of this year to break a 59-race winless streak, then he won again when it really counted: in the playoffs, including at Martinsville Speedway, the final chance to qualify for the championship race. Christopher Bell is becoming a master of NASCAR’s elimination-style playoff format. William Byron’s been the driver to beat all year, but he barely scraped into the final four.

Now, all of them go to Phoenix Raceway on Sunday for the “Championship Four”: a winner-take-all battle in a 40-car field. The highest finisher of those four drivers in this race, on this day, wins the title.

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The Championship Four drivers don’t technically need to win the race to win the title—they just have to beat each other. But a race win is likely what it’ll take to do that.

Here are their Cup Series stats and how they feel about the final race.

kyle larson, a finalist for the 2023 nascar cup series championship
Illustration by Stephen Omark

Kyle Larson

Age: 31

Wins in 2023: 4

Championship Four appearances: 2 (2021, 2023)

Championships: 1 (2021)

Finish at Phoenix in March 2023: 4th

“For us, it's been such an up-and-down season,” Larson told Road & Track. “Not necessarily on car speed, but results. This championship would be super meaningful to us and our team because we overcame so much adversity throughout the year, and we never lost focus on the end goal. Then winning a second Cup Series championship—there aren’t many drivers who've won more than one, so that would be special.

“I hope I don't ever experience being in the final four and not winning. I’m sure that feeling sucks.”

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Illustrations by Stephen Omark

Ryan Blaney

Age: 29

Wins in 2023: 3

Championship Four appearances: 1 (2023)

Championships: N/A

Finish at Phoenix in March 2023: 2nd

“We didn't necessarily dominate [Martinsville], but we ran really, really good all day,” Blaney told Road & Track. “I think having that confidence from running so well the week prior, it's like: ‘Alright, our cars are where they need to be.’ We're obviously going to use what we learned from Phoenix last year, and the spring race this year. It's been a good track for us.

"We feel great in our camp. But I mean, everyone has their confidence level up. All the other playoff cars, all the other groups, their confidence is high too, because they're in the show.”

christopher bell nascar
Illustrations by Stephen Omark

Christopher Bell

Age: 28

Wins in 2023: 2

Championship Four appearances: 2 (2022, 2023)

Championships: N/A

Finish at Phoenix in March 2023: 6th

“As of right now, I feel much better than I did last year,” Bell told Road & Track. “It's been so nice to have more time to prepare for Phoenix, and I think I'm going to feel much more up for the challenge.

“Last year, it felt rushed. Literally, you couldn't even think of Phoenix, because you were outside the cut line and so focused on the task at hand in Martinsville. We didn't even use the word ‘Phoenix’ in our vocabulary until Sunday night after Martinsville. Then the hauler [with the race cars] has to leave, I don't know, Tuesday, to get out there in time. You have 48 hours to prepare for Phoenix.”

2023 nascar championship four contender william byron
Illustration by Stephen Omark

William Byron

Age: 25

Wins in 2023: 6

Championship Four appearances: 1 (2023)

Championships: N/A

Finish at Phoenix in March 2023: 1st

“Everyone could argue that their position is the best position: being locked in early or making it in like we did,” Byron told Road & Track. “I think there's momentum in different ways.

“I feel like for us, we're battle-tested. We just went through something that was very excruciating, and I think that will help. It re-energizes us.”

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