RACE: NASCAR CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP RACE DATE: NOVEMBER 5, 2023
AUSTIN CINDRIC No. 2 DISCOUNT TIRE FORD MUSTANG
START: 27TH STAGE ONE: 30TH STAGE TWO: 35TH FINISH: 35TH POINTS: 24TH
RACE RUNDOWN: Austin Cindric closed out his sophomore season in the NASCAR Cup Series with a 35th-place finish at Phoenix Raceway. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford Mustang started 27th and reported to crew chief Brian Wilson that his car was a little free on entry and exit. Cindric would manage to bring his car home in the 30th-position at the end of Stage 1. When the race resumed on lap 68, Cindric would battle for the free-pass position back on the lead lap, which he would get thanks to a caution on lap 110. With some improved adjustments on the Discount Tire Ford Mustang, Cindric hoped to use the opportunity to gain track position. Unfortunately, he would contact the outside wall coming off turn 4, which prompted an extended pit stop for repairs. Great work got the Discount Tire Ford Mustang back on track and Cindric managed to cross the line in 35th-position under power at race’s end.
CINDRIC’S THOUGHTS: “Certainly bummed to end our season like that. We made a lot of progress on our Discount Tire Ford Mustang in a short amount of time. We managed to get the free pass and started driving back through the field. I made a small mistake in traffic and touched the wall. We had to change a toe link under green and put us several laps down. Thanks to my guys for getting the car back together. Of course, super happy for Ryan [Blaney] and everybody on the No. 12 team and cool for Team Penske to go back-to-back.”
RYAN BLANEY No. 12 MENARDS/DUTCH BOY FORD MUSTANG
START: 15TH STAGE ONE: 10TH STAGE TWO: 6TH FINISH: 2ND POINTS: 1ST
RACE RUNDOWN: Ryan Blaney joined elite company Sunday night at Phoenix Raceway as the 29-year-old became the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion. With the triumph, Team Penske secured it’s 44th national championship in the team’s 57-year history. This marked the first time the organization has won back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series championships and became the 12th-time Team Penske has won back-to-back titles in various racing series.
Blaney started Sunday’s race from the 15th position and methodically began his charge toward the front. He would follow fellow Championship contender Christopher Bell through the field to bring home a 10th place finish in Stage 1. Strong service by the Menards crew would see Blaney gain two spots off pit road.
A strong restart would see Blaney move up to sixth and battle both Bell and Kyle Larson for most of Stage 2. As the long run progressed, Blaney began to catch William Byron, who to that point had led the Championship 4 drivers since the drop of the green flag. Blaney would struggle with drive off and manage to bring home a sixth-place finish in Stage 2.
He would restart fifth for the final run to the championship in the final stage. Around lap 206, Blaney passed Martin Truex Jr. for third and eventually passed Byron for second and the championship lead. By lap 221, Blaney began to close the gap to leader Ross Chastain. The Menards Ford proved to be strong on the long runs and Blaney used various lines to try and pass the No. 1 car. He would eventually fall to third when the final caution of the race came out on lap 276. Strong service got Blaney off pit road in the sixth position. On the restart, Blaney made some nifty moves around both Byron and eventually Larson to move back into the second position and the Championship 4 leader. Blaney utilized long run strength again and began to pull away from the Nos. 5 and 24 cars. He claimed the runner-up position in the race, but most important, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
BLANEY’S THOUGHTS: “I think our team did an amazing job not giving up. It was somewhat of an up and down year, but you’re going to have those moments and through the summer we just worked really hard to get back to where we needed to be and set a deadline for the playoffs. I am just super proud of the effort by everybody at Team Penske who put in tons and tons of hours of hard work, and nobody really got down. They just put their heads down and decided to really put in a lot of work and it showed up, especially in these playoffs and in particular the last five weeks. It’s so cool to have all their hard work pay off, so they should be proud.”
“It’s been over 10 years since I walked through the doors of Team Penske. It’s hard to believe it’s gone by so fast. I was telling everybody all week that having the opportunity to go back-to-back Cup championships has not been done. It’s not very often you get to do something in motorsports that Mr. Penske hasn’t done, so to be able to be a part of this and bring him another championship is very special.”
JOEY LOGANO No. 22 SHELL-PENNZOIL FORD MUSTANG
START: 17TH STAGE ONE: 16TH STAGE TWO: 15TH FINISH: 18TH POINTS: 12TH
RACE RUNDOWN: Joey Logano wrapped up his final day as the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion with an 18th-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway. Logano started in the 17th position and would hold station in what proved to be a track position race. He radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe he would need a big adjustment on his first pit stop to improve a loose-handling condition. Logano would finish Stage 1 in the 16th position. Stage 2 would see much of the same as the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang would remain on the free side. He remained around the top-15. Logano would contact the outside wall late in Stage 2; but would come home in 15th position. The final stage would see him make his way near the top-10 for the first time all day. He would run as high as 11th when the final caution of the day waved on lap 276. Unfortunately, Logano would be caught speeding on entry to pit road which forced him to restart 24th. Try as he might, Logano would rally for an 18th-place finish at the end of 312 laps of competition.
LOGANO’S THOUGHTS: “Certainly wish we could have been more competitive with our Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Congratulations to Ryan [Blaney] and Roger [Penske] on back-to-back titles. So cool for the organization and proud of what the No. 12 team and everybody at Team Penske has accomplished.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The 2023 NASCAR Awards will be held November 29 and 30 at the Music City Center in Nashville.