Phoenix live blog: All the updates from NASCAR Championship Weekend


We’re bringing you live updates leading up to Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App, Peacock). Bookmark this page and check back often as we chronicle the action from the 1-mile track in the desert.

Overview:

Related Story
At track photos: 2023 NASCAR championship weekend At track photos: 2023 NASCAR championship weekend
  • The 1-mile Phoenix Raceway hosts the 312-lap championship race on Sunday afternoon. Leaving the weekend, we’ll have our 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.
  • Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney and William Byron all escaped the Round of 8 and will compete for the 2023 title.
  • The goal is simple, yet extraordinarily difficult – be the first among the four to take the checkered flag, and you’re the champ.
  • It’s the youngest Championship 4 ever. Larson is the only former champion among them, with Bell the only returner from last year’s title contenders. It’s the first Championship 4 appearance for both Byron and Blaney.

Links to keep handy:

  • Phoenix Championship Race 101, an overview of all things Phoenix from NASCAR.com’s Cameron Richardson.
  • What to Watch, a guide for all things Phoenix by our friend Kobe Lambeth. (Seriously, read this and you’ll know what you’re talking about this weekend.)
  • Photos from the track from the more camera-talented folks among us.
  • Keep up with the action on the go with NASCAR Mobile, watch live in-car cameras with NASCAR Drive and follow along with live leaderboards and scanner audio with Race Center.

All times listed are Eastern.

Sunday, November 5

7:30 p.m.: That’ll do it for our Championship live blog this weekend. Thank you for joining us and following our updates throughout NASCAR’s unforgettable 75th anniversary season. We’re grateful to have had you, the fans, sharing this thrilling journey with us. A hearty congratulations to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Ryan Blaney, and the entire Team Penske crew.

Steve Phelps and Ryan Blaney hoist the Bill France Cup amidst a shower of confetti at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

7:14 p.m.: The Blaniacs are in full force in front of the championship stage. Fair to say their numbers will grow after today. Full Phoenix results

7:02 p.m.: Ford has swept NASCAR Championship Weekend. Ben Rhodes won the Craftsman Truck Series championship, Cole Custer took the Xfinity Series title, and now Ryan Blaney has been crowned Cup Series champ. Impressive stuff from the Blue Oval crew.

6:53 p.m.: Ryan Blaney, NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Ryan Blaney performs a burnout at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

6:50 p.m.: Meanwhile, in Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane, Ross Chastain is celebrating his second win of 2023. But, not after the trademark watermelon smash.

6:46 p.m.: Lift that Bill France Cup high!

Ryan Blaney and Steve Phelps lift the Bill France Cup

6:43 p.m.: Ryan Blaney has emerged from his car on the championship stage amidst a cloud of confetti. This is going to be quite a celebration.

6:42 p.m.: In his final NASCAR start, Kevin Harvick comes home seventh. It’s his 21st-consecutive top 10 at Phoenix Raceway.

6:39 p.m.: Kyle Larson finishes third, championship runner-up, while teammate William Byron came home fourth for a third-place effort in the final standings. Christopher Bell exited the race on Lap 109 after a mechanical failure sent the No. 20 in the wall.

6:38 p.m.: It’s the second-consecutive championship for Team Penske, the first time that’s happened in team history. Blaney’s second-place finish is his third straight at Phoenix.

6:30 p.m., 🏁 checkered flag: A rare burnout by Ryan Blaney, who’s celebrating on the frontstretch. That’s only the second smoky celebration we’ve seen from YRB, the last coming after a clutch win at Talladega in October.

Ryan Blaney performs a burnout at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

Ryan Blaney burnout

6:28 p.m., 🏁 checkered flag: Ryan Blaney is the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Phoenix checkered flag

6:28 p.m., 🏁 checkered flag: Ross Chastain has crossed the start-finish line first to claim the race win at Phoenix.

6:27 p.m., Lap 312: ⚪️ White flag. Final lap. Ryan Blaney is 30 seconds away from a championship.

6:25 p.m., Lap 307: Almost there.

6:23 p.m., Lap 304: Not that it matters in terms of the championship, but Ryan Blaney’s closing the gap to leader Ross Chastain. Blaney’s a second ahead of Larson and growing the gap.

6:22 p.m., Lap 302: Just 10 laps remain in the 2023 season. Ryan Blaney runs second, Kyle Larson is third, and William Byron is fourth. The highest finisher of the three will be crowned champion.

6:18 p.m., Lap 292: After a beautiful display of racing between two veterans for many laps, Ryan Blaney has cleared Kyle Larson for second place. Ross Chastain has checked out up front.

6:15 p.m., Lap 287: Ross Chastain has stretched things out to a one-second lead, while Kyle Larson is working to fend off Ryan Blaney for second … and the championship.

6:13 p.m., Lap 283: It’s tight up front.

Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Denny Hamlin race for the lead at Phoenix Raceway

6:12 p.m., Lap 281: 🟢 Restart! We’ve reached the 90 percent mark of this one. Kyle Larson’s in position to claim his second championship as they run.

6:07 p.m., Lap 277: Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones pitted for just two fresh tires, while much of the field opted for four. Kyle Larson and William Byron exited pit road ahead of Ryan Blaney.

6:05 p.m., Lap 275: 🟡 Caution No. 4. Kyle Busch has gone for a solo spin with just 37 laps to go. Expect more pit stops, likely for the last time today. Things are about to get spicy!

6:03 p.m., Lap 270: Blaney’s not done yet. He’s moved past Truex for second place, again following closely in the tracks of leader Ross Chastain.

6:00 p.m., Lap 264: For now, Ryan Blaney has moved behind Chastain and Truex. Kyle Larson and William Byron in fourth and fifth are posting quicker lap times than the No. 12 for now.

5:58 p.m., Lap 261: Third-place Martin Truex Jr. has joined the battle for the lead!

5:57 p.m., Lap 258: It’s a side-by-side battle for the lead between Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney. Blaney could win the title by running second behind Chastain, but Blaney seems to think if he’s clear of the No. 1, he can set sail and put a gap on Kyle Larson and William Byron.

5:55 p.m., Lap 255: The pit cycle is complete and Ross Chastain is again in control. Ryan Blaney is in his tracks, while Hendrick teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron are a few seconds behind.

5:54 p.m., Lap 251: Denny Hamlin finally makes his way to pit road, leaving only Chase Briscoe on track. He’s hoping for an immediate caution to bank some track position. Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney are closing fast.

5:49 p.m., Lap 243: That’s three clean pit stops for the championship contenders. Blaney’s got the edge over Kyle Larson and William Byron. Larson passed his teammate on the exchange. Denny Hamlin, Chase Briscoe and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are leading the race but will need to pit soon.

5:48 p.m., Lap 240: Yep. Leaders Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney have ducked to pit road. We’ll see if a lap’s difference changes anything.

5:47 p.m., Lap 239: Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson are the first cars to hit pit road for the final time today. These are the first green-flag stops. Expect Ryan Blaney to follow next lap.

5:46 p.m., Lap 237: Ryan Blaney’s had his sights set on leader Ross Chastain for laps and laps now; the two have been racing within two car lengths of each other. Chastain’s not making it easy for YRB.

5:33 p.m., Lap 211: Ryan Blaney has moved past William Byron for second place; Blaney’s now the top-running championship contender.

5:24 p.m., Lap 193: 🟢 Back to green! Let’s begin the final stage of 2023.

Restart at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

5:20 p.m., Lap 189: On pit road, the three remaining championship contenders all picked up spots. Behind new leader Ross Chastain, William Byron now runs second, Kyle Larson’s fourth, and Ryan Blaney is fifth. Stage 2 winner Chris Buescher fell to eighth after pit stops.

5:16 p.m., Lap 185: 🟡 Caution No. 3: Chris Buescher wins Stage 2 by 2.5 seconds over Ross Chastain. William Byron finished the stage fourth, Ryan Blaney was sixth, and Kyle Larson was seventh. The Buescher and Byron cars really seemed to come to life on the long run; we’ll see what happens after a round of pit stops.

5:08 p.m., Lap 170: New leader! Chris Buescher has taken the lead away from Ross Chastain.

5:02 p.m., Lap 158: This race is halfway over.

4:58 p.m., Lap 153: Chris Buescher have moved past Kevin Harvick for second. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson swapped ownership of sixth position just prior.

4:51 p.m., Lap 136: The three remaining championship contenders run fifth (Byron), sixth (Larson) and seventh (Blaney) after Martin Truex Jr. makes a pass on Byron. The eliminated playoff drivers came to play today.

4:50 p.m., Lap 134: Running 26th, Austin Cindric has made contact with the outside wall; he’s on pit road for repairs, but the race remains green.

4:46 p.m., Lap 125: We’re halfway through Stage 2. If you’ve got Christopher Bell in your Fantasy Live lineup, take him out before the stage ends; whoever’s in your garage will finish better today. Unless you’re a competitor in my league, then please disregard this message.

Damage to Christopher Bell's No. 20 car at Phoenix Raceway after a brake failure
Brittney Wilbur | NASCAR

4:42 p.m., Lap 117: 🟢 On the restart, Ross Chastain made quick work of Kevin Harvick to take over the lead. Quite a showing for a couple of non-championship contenders! Of the three remaining championship contenders, William Byron has settled into fourth, while Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney run back-to-back in sixth and seventh.

4:40 p.m., Lap 115: After pit stops, Kevin Harvick leads Ross Chastain and Chris Buescher. Ryan Blaney fell to seventh after a slow pit stop.

4:35 p.m., Lap 110: Christopher Bell has officially retired from the race.

4:34 p.m., Lap 109: 🟡 Caution No. 2. Championship contender Christopher Bell has crashed, making heavy contact with the wall after a brake failure. That’s the end of the day — and the season — for the No. 20.

4:32 p.m., Lap 107: Ryan Blaney has caught and passed William Byron for third place. He’s the first Championship 4 driver to pass the No. 24 today.

4:28 p.m., Lap 99: Kyle Larson’s going backwards (not literally). He’s fallen back to seventh, losing three spots since the restart. Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney’s on a mission; he’s climbed to fourth.

4:25 p.m., Lap 93: Lead change! Kevin Harvick, making his final NASCAR start, has just passed William Byron for the top spot; it’s the first time Byron has been toppled all race. With nine wins at Phoenix, Harvick’s really good in the desert. Must be something about those cacti.

4:22 pm., Lap 86: Christopher Bell has made his way past Ryan Blaney for fifth, and he’s got his sights set next on Kyle Larson. Still the William Byron show up front.

4:15 p.m., Lap 71: Here come the championship contenders! Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell have already gained three spots apiece on the restart; they’re now running back-to-back in fifth and sixth, just behind Kyle Larson.

4:13 p.m., Lap 68: 🟢 Green flag is back in the air to start Stage 2; time to fan out and use the whole track. William Byron leads.

Cars fan out on restart at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

4:12 p.m., Lap 67: Stage 2 is quite a bit longer than the first stage — 125 laps to Stage 1’s 60 laps. A pit stop will be necessary for drivers to complete this stage.

4:09 p.m., Lap 64: The first pit stops of the day have just taken place. Seems things were pretty clean for our Championship 4. Kyle Larson moved up to fourth, and Ryan Blaney jumped two spots to eighth.

4:05 p.m., Lap 60: 🟡 Caution No. 1. William Byron holds off Kevin Harvick for the Stage 1 win as the duo slices through lapped traffic. Any other week, the stage win would have meant a playoff point for Byron, but, well, we’ve reached the end of the playoffs so those don’t really apply today. Kyle Larson ended the stage fifth, Christopher Bell was ninth, and Ryan Blaney made his way up to 10th.

4:03 p.m., Lap 57: Happy’s still got it. Kevin Harvick is right on the bumper of leader William Byron as the end of Stage 1 draws near.

3:56 p.m., Lap 44: 📉 Kyle Larson has lost another spot, now to Ross Chastain for fourth. 📈 Christopher Bell has moved up to ninth.

3:54 p.m., Lap 40: Bubba Wallace has moved past Kyle Larson for third position. Meanwhile, Christopher Bell has cracked the top 10.

3:47 p.m., Lap 26: It’s really early, but it’s all William Byron up front so far. Kevin Harvick is about a second behind the No. 24. Kyle Larson runs third, while Christopher Bell is 12th and Ryan Blaney runs 14th. It’s been a slow start for the latter two, but I wouldn’t worry yet.

William Byron leads Kevin Harvick at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

3:45 p.m., Lap 20: Todd Gilliland started an impressive 14th, but he’s fallen deep in the field to 28th. Seems that No. 38 car is not handling as well as it was yesterday.

3:39 p.m., Lap 8: Follow along with the live leaderboard on Race Center, and watch live in-car cameras this afternoon with NASCAR Drive.

3:35 p.m., Lap 1: 🟢 Green flag is in the air! In 312 laps, we’ll have a new NASCAR Cup Series champion.

3:30 p.m.: Cars are pacing and ready to roll. Stage 1 is 60 laps.

3:24 p.m.: Thank you, dignitaries. Engines have been fired!

3:16 p.m.: One last time, #4EVER.

Harvick family before Phoenix Raceway start
Patrick Vallely | NASCAR

3:15 p.m.: Pre-race ceremonies are underway (including an absolutely flawless performance of the national anthem by the United States Air Force Band Singing Sergeants). Get to NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App or Peacock now.

2:58 p.m.: The Bill France Cup is right there. If it weren’t so heavy, one of those drivers could just snag it right now.

2023 Championship 4 standing on the stage at driver introductions at Phoenix Raceway, Bill France Cup centered in front of them

2:55 p.m.: Nikki Garcia is leading driver introductions. It’s all getting real now.

2:37 p.m.: There’s a new millionaire in Phoenix! Among four finalists who won a VIP trip to NASCAR Championship Weekend as part of the NASCAR Powerball Playoff, Stephanie Walker of Mississippi was the lucky winner of the $1 million grand prize drawing. Congratulations, Stephanie!

NASCAR Powerball Playoff winner

2:24 p.m.: Brad Keselowski, who simply tweeted “#BoyDad” last night, has returned to Phoenix and he’ll drive his No. 6 RFK Racing Ford today. Cole Custer qualified the car yesterday … and then proceeded to win the Xfinity Series championship.

2:15 p.m.: Diplo’s got the racetrack moving.

Diplo presents Thomas Wesley performs at Phoenix Raceway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

2:10 p.m.: Here’s my final Fantasy Live lineup for the season. Hopefully you saved your picks for Championship 4 drivers for Phoenix. We’ll see if this squad can elevate me from 12th out of 43 in my league. (Here’s hoping for a top 10, at least.) Debating a last-second swap of Joey Logano for Kevin Harvick in the garage, but the clock is ticking.

Steve Luvender's Fantasy Live lineup for Phoenix: Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano

2:02 p.m.: Lots of talk about the Championship 4 and the retiring Kevin Harvick today, but let’s hear it for Aric Almirola, who’s making his final start with Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series today.

2:00 p.m.: It’s all about the Bill France Cup. Soon, it’ll belong to Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney or William Byron. Beautiful trophy, wouldn’t you say?

Bill France Cup
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

10:10 a.m.: Good morning! When the sun sets this evening (maybe an hour earlier than you’re used to if you set your clocks back for Daylight Saving Time), the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion will be crowned. Don’t forget to set your Fantasy Live lineup for the final time this year, and make your last selections for the Playoffs Grid Challenge. If you’re looking for some reading to pass the time until 3 p.m. ET, do check out the what to watch guide from our colleague Kobe Lambeth.

Saturday, November 4

6:10 p.m.: The next time the Cup Series cars hit the track, they’ll be racing for a championship (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App, Peacock). Everybody will be following William Byron. For tonight, though, the focus shifts to the stars of the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Among Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer and John Hunter Nemecheck, one will emerge with the championship trophy (7 p.m. ET, USA Network).

Jeff Gordon congratulates William Byron
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

5:51 p.m.: Nope! William Byron has earned the pole position and he’ll roll off first for tomorrow’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race. Martin Truex Jr. will start alongside him, and Kevin Harvick will start third in his final race. Kyle Larson starts fourth, Christopher Bell qualified 13th, and Ryan Blaney will roll off 15th.

5:50 p.m.: Ross Chastain is the final qualifier in NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary season. Does he have enough for William Byron’s lap?

5:45 p.m.: Well, he went for it! Tyler Reddick got out of shape on his qualifying lap and slapped the outside wall just before the start-finish line. There’s a bit of damage and an obvious scuff on the No. 45’s right-rear corner. Reddick also spun out in qualifying last week at Martinsville.

Tyler Reddick hits the wall in qualifying at Phoenix Raceway

5:41 p.m.: Kevin Harvick couldn’t quite knock William Byron off the pole. After five cars, the nine-time Phoenix winner is second fastest.

5:39 p.m.: William Byron has completed his lap, and his 27.150-second lap toppled Larson’s quick time. Regardless of qualifying position, he’ll earn the first Championship 4 pit selection. History says that’s good news for the No. 24.

5:37 p.m.: Kyle Larson, second car out, puts down a 27.191-second lap. William Byron will make his lap after Bubba Wallace, who’s on track right now.

5:32 p.m.: Time to see who wins the final pole position of 2023 among the 10 drivers who’ve advanced to the final round of qualifying. (And, yes, Kevin Harvick could still do it!)

5:27 p.m.: Looks like Christopher Bell will start 13th tomorrow, while Ryan Blaney will start 15th. The qualifying efforts for these two also mean their Hendrick Motorsports counterparts William Byron and Kyle Larson will earn the first two pit selections among the Championship 4. It could make a difference tomorrow.

5:24 p.m.: Well, C-Bell is in good company. Fellow Championship 4 driver Ryan Blaney posts an eighth-quickest time and also won’t advance to the final round of qualifying. Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Preece will transfer from Group B.

5:22 p.m.: Christopher Bell will not advance to the final round of qualifying; he’s seventh of 17 in Group B.

4:59 p.m.: Kyle Larson, the last Group A car to take the track, posts the fourth-quickest lap of the group. Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, Larson and Erik Jones will join the five fastest from the upcoming Group B to go for the pole.

4:56 p.m.: William Byron wraps up his first-round qualifying run just a tick off Kevin Harvick’s time: a 27.074 to Harvick’s 27.067.

William Byron at Phoenix Raceway
Brittney Wilbur | NASCAR

4:51 p.m.: Kevin Harvick is on track for his final qualifying session. He’s fastest of the 12 Group A cars so far. Six cars remain in the group, and he’ll need to remain in the top five to advance to the final round of qualifying.

4:43 p.m.: Cole Custer is qualifying Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 car this afternoon. Per the team, Keselowski’s out of the car due to his wife, Paige, going into labor. Custer qualified fifth of the seven cars so far.

4:35 p.m.: Qualifying has begun! The first few cars on track in Group A seem to have some grip issues; we’ll see how it impacts our championship contenders later. Follow along with our Race Center leaderboard.

4:30 p.m.: How about we set the lineup for the championship race? Cue the dramatic music. (Really, though. It’s on the TV broadcast. Love it, USA Network.)

2023 Championship 4 cars in garage
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

1:20 p.m.: Well, we’re now one day closer to crowning the Cup Series champion. Qualifying takes place this afternoon at 4:35 p.m. ET, airing on USA Network.

Friday, November 3

9:05 p.m.: That’s it for the Cup Series on the track until qualifying tomorrow at 4:35 p.m. ET. Next up tonight at the track is the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Race, where Grant Enfinger, Corey Heim, Carson Hocevar or Ben Rhodes will lift the championship trophy (10 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

9:03 p.m.: Practice is in the books. Kyle Busch set the fastest lap, a 27.520-second circuit. Of the Championship 4 drivers, Ryan Blaney was third fastest, just ahead of Christopher Bell in fourth, followed by seventh-quickest William Byron and 11th-fastest Kyle Larson. If we’re talking 10-lap averages, it’s Bell (first), Blaney (second), Byron (third) and Larson (11th).

8:58 p.m.: Kevin Harvick has just completed his final NASCAR practice session; he’s 12th quickest. We’re saying goodbye to a handful of familiar sights this weekend.

8:53 p.m.: Kyle Larson, currently 10th fastest in practice, has been pushing the limits with the outside wall.

8:37 p.m.: AJ Allmendinger has gone for a spin after contact with Kyle Busch. There’s some minor visible damage on Allmendinger’s No. 16 car, but it doesn’t look like anything that’ll ruin the weekend for either team.

AJ Allmendinger spins in practice at Phoenix Raceway after contact with Kyle Busch

8:20 p.m.: After 15 minutes, Kyle Busch and Bubba Wallace are quickest, followed by championship contenders Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell. Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson are seventh- and eighth-fastest so far.

8:00 p.m.: Let’s practice for the final time in 2023. The teams get 50 minutes to dial in their cars, then they’ll qualify tomorrow (4:35 p.m. ET). We should get a good idea of who’s got what for the weekend. Follow along with our Race Center leaderboard.

7:45 p.m.: Hard to believe we’ll know the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion in about 48 hours from now! The weekend schedule is chock-full of racing action. The Cup Series hits the track at 8 p.m. ET for practice, just before the Craftsman Truck Series championship race.

MUST WATCH