NASCAR Cup Series: Phoenix Preview, Predictions, and How To Watch

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 13: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Maytag Ford, races during the the Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 13, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Bell. Chastain. Elliott. Logano. Who conquers Phoenix and takes home the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship this weekend?

The time has come. After 35 races with 19 different winners, including a dramatic first nine playoff races, the Championship 4 has been determined for the season finale this weekend in Phoenix.

The four championship contenders are Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, and Ross Chastain. Whoever finishes the highest on Sunday will be the champion. It’s been a long road for each of these drivers, so let’s take a moment to see how they made it here before this weekend’s race.

Joey Logano

The veteran of this final four, Logano had a somewhat quiet start to the season but still managed five Top 10 finishes. Things picked up for him through summer when he grabbed two wins at Darlington and at Gateway. He began the postseason by sneaking through the tumultuous first round of the playoffs thanks to his playoff points accumulation from the regular season. After then advancing past the Round of 12, he clinched his spot in the Championship 4 with a win in Las Vegas, marking his fifth appearance as a contender in the championship race. Logano is seeking his second career NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Chase Elliott

Elliott has without a doubt been the most consistent driver of 2022. He’s been at the peak of his powers, scoring 17 Top 10 finishes in the regular season including wins at Dover, Nashville, Pocono, and his home track in Atlanta. He’s looking for his second NASCAR Cup Series championship and trying to make it three in a row for Hendrick Motorsports after teammate Kyle Larson’s win in 2021 and Elliott’s first title in 2020.

Christopher Bell

Bell had a rough start to the season with four finishes outside the top 20 in the first five races. But he slowly picked it up and rolled on to snatch 13 top-10s the rest of the season, including his sole regular season win at New Hampshire. He carried that momentum into the postseason, recording a Top five finish in the first three races.

Things again started to get difficult though. He was against the ropes in the Round of 12 after two poor results, but a good strategy call saw him make the cut after winning at the Charlotte Roval. Last weekend he found himself in the same spot, but showed his poise, winning at Martinsville. He now enters his first Championship 4 looking for another clutch victory to claim the title.

Ross Chastain

This is what you’ve been waiting for. Chastain had 14 top-10s in the regular season including wins at Talladega and the Circuit of the Americas. But he shouldn’t be here. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because perhaps any other driver in his situation wouldn’t have done what he did to reach this point. Despite consecutive Top two finishes in the Round of 8, Chastain still found himself on the outside of the cut line with just a few laps to go at Martinsville last week. Facing elimination, with just two corners to go in the race, Chastain needed to make up two¬†spots to pass Denny Hamlin in points and advance.

What followed was one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history. Chastain pinned the throttle and rode the wall in Turns 3 and 4, slingshotting himself ahead of a seemingly impossible¬†five cars in front of him, and making up enough ground to just beat Hamlin to the line. If by some miracle you haven’t seen the clip, you can take a look below. When Chastain says he’ll do anything to win, you can take his word for it. It’ll be a tough battle this weekend, but it sure is hard to bet against a guy who did something as crazy as Chastain did to not finish it out in Phoenix. This is Chastain’s first Championship 4, and boy did he enter it in style.

The Track

Built in 1964, Phoenix Raceway is a unique 1-mile “Dogleg” oval. It has hosted all three NASCAR series, as well as IndyCar and IMSA events. The track also used to include an infield road course, which was used until 2011. Kevin Harvick has dominated the track with nine wins at Phoenix in his career, the most all-time. Chase Elliott and Joey Logano have both secured wins at Phoenix (Elliott in the 202o championship race) while Ross Chastain had a career-best Phoenix finish of second this year and Christopher Bell has a best finish of ninth at the track.

The start/finish line at Phoenix is placed just before the famous dogleg. Drivers typically spread out through the dogleg, some taking a high line and others cutting through the bottom of the kink since there are no restrictions. This means that banking is quite different depending on the line a driver takes. The track is flat at 0 degrees at the bottom but increases up to 11 degrees at the top of the kink. Turns 1 and 2 feature variable banking of 8-9 degrees and Turns 3 and 4 vary from 10-11 degrees.

Sunday’s race will be 312 laps and cover 312 miles. Stage 1 will be the first 60 laps of the race, and Stage 2 will be the next 125 laps. Stage 3 will consist of the final 127 laps of the race.

Phoenix Raceway - Wikipedia

Playoff Standings

No standings apply this week since the champion will simply be the driver among the final four that finishes the highest in Sunday’s race. However, here are the odds for each driver to win the NASCAR Championship ahead of this week’s finale. Elliott leads the way, but all the drivers’ odds are close together.

Odds from BetMGM

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: +200

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing: +250

Joey Logano, Team Penske: +300

Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing: +300

Race Predictions

It wouldn’t shock me if an outsider won this race and complicated things. Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick both have the Phoenix pedigree to do such a thing. These final four though are locked in, and even if someone else breaks up the party in the top 4 I still think one of the contenders gets the victory. It’s a tough call, but I’m going with the man of the hour. Give me Chastain to cap off the Cinderella story and take home the title.

  1. Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing
  2. Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing
  3. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports
  4. Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports
  5. Joey Logano, Team Penske

 

How To Watch: NASCAR Championship Race (All Times EST)

  • Practice: Friday, November 4th – 8:05 p.m. – USA
  • Qualifying: Saturday, November 5th – 3:30 p.m. – USA
  • NASCAR Cup Series Championship: Sunday, November 6th – 3:00 p.m. – NBC (Green flag at 3:15 p.m.)
Featured Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images