Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship this afternoon on NBC and Peacock – his first career Cup Series title and second straight title for Team Penske after Joey Logano won in 2022. Blaney finished second in today’s championship race, outdueling fellow Championship 4 contenders Kyle Larson (3rd place), William Byron (4th place), and Christopher Bell (36th place) at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. Ross Chastain won the race.
Two-time Daytona 500 Champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., 21-time Cup Series race winner and “The Mayor” of NASCAR Jeff Burton, and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte served as analysts for the Cup Series Championship race from Phoenix Raceway with NBC Sports’ lead NASCAR race announcer Rick Allen. Marty Snider, Dave Burns, Kim Coon, and Parker Kligerman provided reports from pit road.
NBC Sports’ Countdown to Green pre-race coverage was hosted by Marty Snider alongside Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett, racing icon Kyle Petty, and JTG Daugherty Racing team owner Brad Daugherty.
Pre-race coverage on NBC and Peacock included:
- Special interviews with all Cup Series Championship 4 drivers, including:
- Ryan Blaney at the front of the grid with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- William Byron and Christopher Bell with Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Brad Daugherty
- Kyle Larson with Earnhardt Jr. and Burton
- 1999 Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett voicing the opening tease for the Cup Series Championship race;
- Championship 4 driver introductions by WWE Hall of Famer and Barmageddon host Nikki Garcia;
- A feature on Kevin Harvick, who competed in his final NASCAR Cup Series race following a 23-year career. The piece looked back at Harvick’s illustrious career and the special moments he’s been able to share with his wife and two children, and was followed by a conversation with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- NBC Sports’ NASCAR studio analysts go off the beaten path to take a unique look at their favorite moments of the 2023 season;
- A celebration of the best championship moments in NASCAR history as the sport concludes its 75th season, as well as a look at the first NASCAR championship trophy from 1948.
Blaney to Snider after burnouts: “So proud of this team. What an unbelievable year and Playoffs for us. To win back-to-back cup titles for Mr. Penske is so special, and to have my family here for my first Cup title…I got emotional in the car and I’m not a very emotional guy.”
Letarte: “What’s most impressive to me is that it hasn’t been a dominant year. There were times during the season that this No. 12 car did not have the speed that it needed…they went to work and found the speed. Talk about peaking at the right time.”
Earnhardt Jr.: “The Blaney name is now in the history books as a NASCAR Cup Series champion. He carries on that deep racing legacy. A humble driver giving credit to all of those for his success.”
Race-winner Chastain to Burns: “We did something else that’s never been done before…this vision for Trackhouse was goals like this and they were lofty…I couldn’t think of anything I would want to do more is be like Kevin Harvick and racing him early in the race was bucket list, little kid in me, racing that 2005 GameCube game.”
Harvick to Coon following his final race: “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for sure…this means a lot to me, just because I love driving the car, I love being around the people more. I love our sport. It’s given our family so much throughout the years…I opened this chapter unexpectedly in 2001 and closed it in 2023 how we wanted to, and that was being competitive.”
STAGE 3 QUOTES
Allen: “Winning is his family’s DNA and Ryan has just crested the mountain of all wins. Ryan Blaney is a NASCAR Cup Series champion!”
Earnhardt Jr.: “It is one of the impressive things about racing – how incredible it is to watch these great drivers under these conditions. This is what we’ve been waiting for all season long and here we are with an incredible drive between these drivers.”
STAGE 2 QUOTES
Letarte on Christopher Bell wrecking out of the race after brake failure: “You could hear it. As soon as he touches the brake pedal, the right front rotor explodes. The rotor goes through the wheel and Christopher Bell has no option but to go straight into the wall…we heard him complaining about the brakes…how are they cooled? It’s ducts in the front…he was wide open…I think in Bell’s part he’s using the brakes too much.”
Burns on Bell: “We heard him say on the broadcast that the brakes are too hot, and then he radioed back to crew chief Adam Stevens that. ‘I’m going to need brake help.’”
Earnhardt Jr. on impact of Kevin Harvick replacing Dale Earnhardt Sr. and winning his first race just weeks after Earnhardt’s passing: “I don’t think any of us could really understand what Kevin was going through, and I don’t know that all of us really took time to respect the amount of pressure that he was under. He helped soften the loss for RCR and Dale Earnhardt fans. All of us in the industry were thinking, ‘Where are we going to go? How are we going to go forward?’ (Harvick winning at Atlanta) was the best possible outcome on that day to help that process start. He didn’t know what he had done, but I’ll say this – throughout all of that, and after all of these years, he has always been complimentary of my father and he has never complained about that situation and how difficult that might have been for him. I always appreciate that. It says a lot about his character and it’s meant a lot to me personally.”
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