For NASCAR, 2023 was the 75th anniversary season of the sport. In the fading Phoenix sun on November 5th, 2023, a new Champion was crowned for the NASCAR Cup Series. A fitting end for the 75th anniversary season. This year’s Championship Four could be argued as having the four most competitive drivers in the sport today. Those drivers were William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, and Ryan Blaney. Four drivers, one championship to win. Let’s discuss who won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship and if they deserved to win it or not.
A Champion is Crowned in the Desert:
Coming into the 2023 Season, Ryan Blaney was riding a career-long winless streak. That winless streak ended with a win at the Coca-Cola 600. After that win, Blaney went somewhat quiet until The Playoffs. With a clutch win at Talladega in a photo finish, this is when the #12 team started to come alive. After the win in Talladega, Blaney only finished outside of the Top-10 once. Entering Martinsville, the cutoff race before Phoenix, Blaney was in a solid position to make it to Phoenix. Blaney didn’t have to worry about points due to him winning at Martinsville. This gave him and the #12 team a huge momentum boost heading into Phoenix. That win put the Championship odds in Blaney’s favor.
Entering Phoenix, Blaney had fantastic finishes at Phoenix in the past. In the past four Phoenix races, not including the 2023 Championship Race, Blaney posted an average finish of 3.0. Even with his win in Martinsville, the odds were in his favor. Despite qualifying the worst out of the Championship Four drivers, it did not take long for Blaney to make his way to the front of the field. With the final restart with 31 laps to go, it was a duel for the Championship between Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. Blaney would make his way around Larson with 20 laps to go. He would go on to finish second to Ross Chastain and would win his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship. But with that being said, did Blaney deserve to win the 2023 Cup Series Championship?
Did Blaney Deserve the Championship?
There could be some arguments that Blaney deserved the Championship. But there also could be some arguments that Blaney doesn’t deserve the Championship. After the last two months of the season, Blaney deserved to win the Championship because of how well the #12 team was running. Throughout the last six races of the season, Blaney posted an average finish of 4.0. Yes, they were the best team in the last two months of the season, but they were not the most consistent throughout the season. The most consistent driver of 2023 was William Byron. Byron led twice as many laps as Blaney and had twice as many wins in 2023. This shows the flaws in the current points system. But nothing can change the fact that Ryan Blaney is the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
What’s Next Heading into 2024?
The offseason is the worst time of year for drivers, fans, and owners. But drivers can also do other races in the offseason. For example, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell will return to their roots of racing by returning to race on dirt throughout December and January. The NASCAR offseason headlines a few different crown jewel races for different motorsports. In December, the Snowball Derby is a Super Late Model race that is held in Florida which many NASCAR drivers compete in. January is headlined by the Chili Bowl and The Rolex 24. The Chili Bowl is the crown jewel of dirt racing while the Rolex 24 is the start of the IMSA Season. No matter what, there will always be constant racing throughout the offseason.
One thing that NASCAR needs to look into during the offseason is possibly making changes to the Next-Gen car. Some could argue that the Next-Gen raced better this season compared to 2022. The racing was great on some racetracks, but once again, the Next-Gen car struggled on short tracks. Earlier this year, NASCAR debuted a new aero package for the Next-Gen car on short tracks and road courses. The racing was better on short tracks and road courses throughout the year, but it does need work. Whether it be increasing the horsepower or the removal of the diffuser, the car needs to be worked on regardless.
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