The NASCAR Cup series season is coming to a close with championship weekend finally upon us. The 2022 season has been one full of moments that will be remembered for a long time. This past weekend’s race at Martinsville added to that list with one of the craziest moves the sport has ever seen. Now, it’s time to decide a champion in Phoenix.
In most years NASCAR’s playoff format receives heavy scrutiny for being unlike traditional racing practices. This season has been quite different and for maybe the first time in the playoff era, all four championship drivers deserve to win the title. Today I’m making a case as to why each of these drivers should and can be crowned champion come Sunday.
Just 2 years ago Ross Chastain was racing one of the bottom 5 cars in the Cup Series garage. Now, he’s got a shot to win a championship.
Chastain managed to nab his first win by moving AJ Allmendinger at COTA early this year. He grabbed his second win at Talladega in the spring as well. Chastain then went on a tear during the summer stretch with six straight top ten finishes at one point. The last six races before the playoffs were a different story however, as Chastain wasn’t able to make a top 15 in that timeframe. He started the round of 16 with more of the same at Darlington before cleaning things up with a seventh place finish at Kansas. He’s been inside the top ten almost every race since and had two straight second place finishes in the round of eight.
Ross Chastain pulled off a video game move in order to advance himself into the Championship Four. It’s a move that will be talked about for ages and will be even greater if he wins this weekend.
Ross has been under fire throughout the year for his aggressive racing style but it’s that aggressive style that has gotten him here. Chastain has had to scratch and claw his way to get to this point and it would be foolish to think he’ll stop now. Can Chastain’s determination and newfound momentum propel him to his first career title?
Chastain’s move makes it easy to forget Christopher Bell won to advance to his first championship four. Bell has been ridiculously clutch throughout the 2022 playoffs to put his team in a position for a title. Bell was able to pull through after struggling in the round of 12 with a walk off win at the Roval. Just like last round, Bell entered the round of eight cutoff race in a must-win scenario.
Bell ran top 10 for most of the day but as stated earlier, he needed to win. With 34 laps to go the caution came out putting everyone on the lead lap in a precarious position. Chase Briscoe, who also needed a win to advance, chose to stay out on older tires for what was likely going to be the final restart. Christipher Bell however, like most drivers up front, chose to come down and get 4 tires.
Bell restarted 6th and after the tires got some heat in them, he came charging. He would win in a walk off fashion yet again to lock himself into the championship four. Now, Bell has an opportunity to win the first championship for the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing machine since Tony Stewart won the crown in 2005. Bell is bringing the #20 car back to its glory days and now has a chance to solidify himself as a top tier driver in the series.
If you watched Bell in the lower tier series, you probably figured it was a matter of time before Bell was competing for a title. Now he has a chance to go win a championship in just his third career season. Bell has wrapped up 2022 with 12 top fives and 19 top tens to go along with 3 wins. Bell deserves to win this title just as much as every other contender. Can Christopher Bell win his first title and bring the #20 car back to the champions podium?
One of the 2 past champions featured in the championship four is Joey Logano who oddly enough is the oldest of the bunch at 32. For those who have watched since the 2000’s it feels like Joey has been around forever. Logano has grown into one of the best drivers in the series and he has a chance to end the season as a two-time champion.
Logano was the first of the championship four drivers to lock themselves into Phoenix with his win at Kansas to start the round of eight. The 2018 champion has had the last 2 weeks to focus his attention on Phoenix, an advantage his competitors don’t have.
Logano has had an up and down season that featured a brutal summer stretch. Despite four straight finishes outside the top 20 in June/July, Logano has rallied to put himself in position to become just the second two-time champion in the field alongside rival Kyle Busch.
Logano’s playoff run has mirrored his regular season, as he’s managed four top tens through nine races. That being said however, Logano has 5 finishes outside the top 15 in the last 9 races. Thankfully for him, his good runs have allowed him to pick up stage and playoff points which helped put him in this position. He now prepares to make his record-tying 5th championship four appearance.
Logano has won 3 races this season on courses that are all very different. For Logano that’s good news considering one of those wins came at WWT Raceway, a track similar to Phoenix in a lot of ways. Joey managed a top ten at Phoenix in the spring and he will have a great chance to win the title come Sunday. The bad news for Logano though? He hasn’t managed back to back top ten finishes since Richmond and Watkins Glen. Logano finished sixth at Martinsville this weekend. If his playoff pattern sticks true, Logano will finish outside the top 10 and probably won’t win the title. Can Logano change his recent misfortune and become the second active two time champion?
The fan favorite hasn’t had the playoffs he would hope for, but he’s made it to the championship round with a shot at a second title. His regular season performance has helped elevate him throughout the playoffs as Elliott was the 2022 regular season champion. Elliott has more wins than any other driver this season at five and the most laps led at 857. Chase also has the highest driver rating in the field this season at 99.2. The next closest driver is Ross Chastain at 93.4.
Elliott has been the man this season and in a year full of parity one team has pulled through week in and week out and that’s this 9 team. In a full season long points format Elliott would have clinched the championship last weekend. Instead he’ll have to fight against four other competitors this weekend but the good news for Elliott is his prior success at the track.
Phoenix has been one of Elliott’s best tracks in his career and it’s also the site of his first championship. Elliott has eight top tens in his career at Phoenix and an average finish of 10.7.
He will be competitive once again but this Hendrick Motorsports team needs to find a little juice after a shaky few races. Last week was an improvement but they will need much more to bring home a title this weekend. Can the fan-favorite defend the momentum the other three drivers have to become a two time champion?
My pick: Joey Logano
The 2022 title is going to be a dogfight between four drivers who could easily hoist the trophy by Sunday evening. This is shaping up to be a crazy end to a crazy NASCAR season. It was tough to pick a driver to win but ultimately I am picking Joey Logano. As much as I may think Chastain has the determination and momentum, Logano’s extra weeks of preparation shouldn’t be forgotten. Logano is making his fifth championship four appearance. His composure mixed with his aggressive style will make him the man to beat. He will be solid on Sunday and I believe he will come home the champion. May the best driver win.
/ 13 hours ago
Winning loves to win. Undeniably, the Dolphins are having one of the best seasons...