Ross Chastain scored his second victory of the year by winning the 2023 season finale, but second-place Ryan Blaney grabbed the biggest trophy in a 31-lap dash to claim the NASCAR Cup Series Championship on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.
With 37 laps remaining, Chastain led and Blaney was in position for his first title, but Kyle Busch brought out the fourth caution with a spin.
With a clear track ahead of him, Chastain put his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet ahead by more than a second after the last green flag, but Blaney restarted in sixth, behind title contenders Kyle Larson and William Byron.
However, Blaney used his No. 12 Team Penske Ford to pass both competitors and cruise to the championship by nearly two seconds.
The race marked the fourth straight season NASCAR crowned its champion at the 1-mile track in the Sonoran Desert.
Larson, Byron and Chris Buescher completed the top five.
Kevin Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion competing in his final race as a full-time driver, started third and finished seventh.
The spring race winner nearly eight months ago, Byron put the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the pole to start the season finale at the flat track. Larson (fourth), Christopher Bell (13th) and Blaney (15th) rounded out the Championship 4 starters.
On Lap 109, Bell became the first Championship 4 driver to be eliminated from contention when his brake rotor exploded and flattened his right front tire in the first incident.
His yellow No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota then smacked the Turn 1 wall, slashing the championship field to three.
Buescher, who stormed through the summer with three wins in five races, claimed Stage 2 over Chastain and Harvick. Closely behind in the top seven were Byron, Blaney and Larson.
Blaney found power and handling in his No. 12 Ford with about 100 circuits to go, passing Byron to take the top spot among the remaining trio of title contenders.
With 75 laps left, second-place Blaney topped fourth-place Byron by three seconds, but the first round of green-flag pit stops soon began with Larson’s and Byron’s Hendrick Camaros pitting together.