THE NASCAR Championship 4 takes place after Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, which saw one driver celebrating in victory lane and another celebrating on pit road with his team.
Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag at Martinsville in the penultimate race of the season to clinch third place in the 2023 championship race. William Byron, who led the Cup Series with six victories this season, won the fourth and final place in points after being the highest ranked driver without a win in the third round.
They will join Kyle Larson, who won the round of 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Christopher Bell, who won last weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as the four drivers who will race for the NASCAR Cup championship Series 2023, next Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher were eliminated from championship contention.
Blaney’s win at Martinsville was his third of the season. He held off Aric Almirola in the final laps at NASCAR’s oldest and smallest track to win one of the series’ most unique prizes: a grandfather clock.
“I felt like we had a really strong playoff run, especially the Round of 16,” said Blaney, who finished no lower than sixth in the three-race round. “I can’t wait to get to Phoenix next week.”
Hamlin finished third on Sunday, but after a mechanical failure last weekend at Homestead, his points deficit was too large to overcome. Buescher finished eighth, Truex 12th and Byron 13th – high enough to maintain an 8-point advantage over Hamlin and claim the final spot in the championship race.
“Last week’s mechanical power steering failure sealed our fate,” Hamlin said. I hate that we’re not in it. It’s a race, right? It’s the playoffs. You have a three-race season.
Byron said his helmet fan stopped working during the race and he fell to the ground outside his car after the race.
“This is our worst race of the year,” Byron said. “With 50 (laps) to go, I felt really, really bad and I just had to get through it. The guys stayed by my side and continued to motivate me, in little ways, and keep my mind clear.
Larson and Byron gave Hendrick Motorsports a pair of Chevrolets in the final four, Bell is in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and Blaney drives a Ford for Team Penske. Blaney can give Team Penske back-to-back titles after Joey Logano won for Penske last year.
Larson is the only driver in the field to hold a Cup title and returns to the final four for the second time in three years. Bell returns to the championship for the second year in a row; Blaney and Byron never raced for the Cup title.
CHEVROLET WINS MANUFACTURER TITLE
Chevrolet clinched its 42nd manufacturers’ championship early in Sunday’s race at Martinsville.
It was the third year in a row that the title went to the bow tie brigade in NASCAR’s top Cup series. Chevrolet has already won the Truck Series and Xfinity Series championships this season for its fifth sweep of the national series – the first since 2012 when Chevrolet won all three national titles.
Chevrolet won its first Manufacturers’ Cup championship in 1958 and went on to record a streak of 13 consecutive titles between 2003 and 2015. Chevrolet has 850 Cup victories and 33 drivers’ championships in NASCAR’s premier series, making it the winningest automaker in NASCAR’s 75-year history.
“This title is the result of great teamwork from the Chevrolet drivers, crew chiefs and teams who worked tirelessly throughout the season,” said Jim Campbell, vice president American performance and motorsports company from General Motors.
The season-ending championship race at Phoenix Raceway, where Larson, Bell, Blaney and Byron will compete for the Cup title. The best-placed driver among the bottom four wins the championship. Joey Logano won his second title a year ago by winning Phoenix, but has already been eliminated from the playoffs. Byron won in the spring.
Contributor: Associated Press