There is no better lap to lead than the last lap. There is no better time to be hotter than the last race.
William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell enter the season finale on the mile-long oval in Arizona with an even chance to win the title. The highest finisher will take it — no points, ifs, buts or maybes about it.
“Peaking at a really good time,” said Blaney, driver of Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford Mustang, in his first Championship 4 after winning at Talladega on Oct. 1 in the Round of 12 and at Martinsville last week in the Round of 8.
“We are going to have a rocket ship,” said Bell, pilot of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry. “I can’t wait to get out there.”
Larson, aiming for his second Cup Series crown in three years, is also fired up. “Phoenix is a great track for us,” he said.
Byron, in the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, could be the first North Carolinian in the 21st century to be the champion. “It’d be cool. I’m from Charlotte, everyone else moves here,” he said.
So who’s the favorite?
Byron has the season’s best driver rating. Larson and Byron have wins (one each) at Phoenix among the championship contenders. Blaney has run second twice in his last two Phoenix races, and he has earned three poles in Arizona. Bell has a crew chief, Adam Stevens, who has helmed seven Championship 4 races and won two. Larson in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has the most laps led this season.
Byron and Larson race for Hendrick Motorsports, which has 13 victories at Phoenix.
Joe Gibbs Racing, with seven Phoenix flags, powers Bell.
Team Penske’s four wins in the valley include the 2022 championship run by Blaney’s teammate, Panini America NASCAR Brand Ambassador Joey Logano.
And of course, it’s a full field for the race — three dozen other drivers besides the championship contenders will be mashing the gas when the green flag drops at 2:32 p.m. CST on NBC. Kevin Harvick leads active drivers in Phoenix wins with nine. Logano, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have also won multiple times there.
But only one gets the checkers. Only one gets the trophy. Only one does a burnout.
Only one will be champion.
This is the time.