NASCAR Cup Series Championship 2023 Drivers, Predictions and Best Bets: Larson, Blaney battle it out

NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (12) drives down pit road prior to the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
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Matt Selz


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NASCAR handicapper for Pickswise, looking to give you winners throughout the season! For Matt Selz media enquiries, please email

The Valley of the Sun just saw the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks battle it out for World Series. Now, though, NASCAR turns to Phoenix Raceway to crown their 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

The interesting track in the Arizona desert has been causing fits for NASCAR teams for a while now, and nothing is different this week with a title on the line. Just what makes Phoenix different? What trends are we looking at for betting the Cup Series Championship? Are there similar tracks to Phoenix, and if so what can we take from them? With this being the championship race, does that change what and how we bet? All that, plus winner predictions and the best prop bets for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series finale at Phoenix below.

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trends

The first trend we have to talk about his who’s winning these races. For the purposes of this betting preview, we’re going to be only referencing the championship races at Phoenix, rather than earlier in the year races. Why is that? Well the championships have taken on a different feel and race style than the others since the title race started being held there in 2020. The Championship Four drivers have tended to be left to race essentially by themselves without much interference by most others and are allowed to pass easier (not by rule but by driver courtesy). So with that in mind, what do the trends look like? The driver who’s landed on the pole in qualifying each of the last three title races has won the race. They’ve not always stayed out front the whole time but they’ve wound up winning nonetheless. The other trend we’ve noticed is that passing is possible here and several drivers a race have moved up double-digit spots from their starting spots. That’s something to note for prop bets. We’ll be getting a full 50-minute practice session on Friday evening and then a separate qualifying session on Saturday which we’ve not seen yet this year in the Cup Series.

Phoenix Raceway Betting Strategies

So knowing what we know about the trends with the Championship Race, what are the betting strategies we can use for Sunday? The first thing to know is what the track is like and how it compares to other tracks. It’s generally a fairly flat 1-mile layout with max banking of 12 degrees, only in one corner of the track. It also has a wide, very wide, “front stretch” that’s known as the dogleg. Following the start-finish line the dogleg comes in handy for making several passes at once on restarts and shortening lap times. With this in mind, that’s why we’re not too concerned with drivers starting in the 20s for our top-10 bets. Phoenix is generally considered a similar track to Richmond in it’s form and shape. Even with a slightly shorter distance, the style of driving and setup of the cars are very similar. We’re not really going to look at other 1-mile tracks like Dover or New Hampshire because the banking (Dover) or driving style (New Hampshire) make them incomparable with Phoenix. We should also only really stick to the last four races at Phoenix which gives us two Championship races and the three competed, in general so far, in the Next Gen car.

Winner Predictions For Phoenix NASCAR Championship

Alls odds listed are from DraftKings Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.

Kyle Larson +275

Larson won his title here in 2021 and has generally run well on this track. The other thing in his favor is that he clinched his spot in this race in Vegas — 2 races ago. That has given his team and crew more time to get the car setup and ready for Phoenix. History has been kind to the driver who has clinched with the first chance. The last few championship winners have come from those who have clinched in the first race of the Round of 8.

Ryan Blaney +285

This is almost undoubtedly his best track in the Cup Series. His average finish in the last four races here is 3.0 — by far the best in the field. He also showed up with plenty of speed. He is top 3 in short and long-run speed in all metrics, as well. To be blunt, I’m surprised he’s not the favorite given his track history, the fact he has had lots of speed all year and how he has run so far this weekend.

William Byron +380

Byron is probably the least surprising Championship Four drivers, as he is tied for the most wins on the season and he’s been fast everywhere. That’s the same this weekend as he’s top-three in all speed metrics at practice at a track that he won at in the Spring. In that race he started P3 and led 64 laps. There’s little reason why he can’t do that once more this weekend to clinch his first championship and third in four years for Hendrick Motorsports.

Christopher Bell +450 (BetMGM)

Bell has been equal to the other championship four here in the Next Gen car except for Ryan Blaney, yet we’ve got the longest odds on him. The Toyotas have been racy in the short track package this year dating all the way back to the Spring race here when Bell spent basically the whole race in the top-five. He’ll need to do that once more on Sunday to win the title but he’s certainly a driver who’s up to the task.

Kevin Harvick +1200 (BetMGM)

This is a narrative bet. It’s that simple. He has dominated at Phoenix in his career with nine wins and a strong showing in each of the last several races even when not winning. In the NextGen car he’s finished no worse that P6. That’s performance based trends, what’s the narrative though? It’s his last race ever in a Cup car. There are a ton of emotions for him this weekend but that’s not stopped him from showing up with speed. He’ll need to make history by being the first non-championship driver to win a championship race, but that’s not too big for Harvick.

Chris Buescher +6500 (Caesars)

Let’s preface this with this fact: since going to this format, the champion has had to win each championship race to win the title. So that doesn’t leave a ton of wiggle room in this bet, especially with the guys listed above him. However, the car has speed and he does have a win at Richmond earlier in the year. If — and a big IF — he catches a break or two and a late-race pit stop strategy goes his way, he could be in a spot to capitalize and be the most unlikely race winner of the year.

Best Prop Bets For NASCAR Cup Championship At Phoenix

Christopher Bell Top-3 Finish +140 

I don’t see Bell as the fourth-best playoff driver this weekend. These odds assume that to be true. Bell has shown up with a top-three car in speed this weekend and if we look at that showings in the Next Gen car he has the same number of top-10s as Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, and William Byron, yet he’s the only one with plus odds for this? Toyotas have been good at short tracks this year which adds to this upside.

Chase Briscoe Top-10 Finish +175 

This has been Briscoe’s best track in the Cup Series. In the last three races here, Briscoe has a win, P4, and P7 respectively. Now he’s got top-10 speed in the car again. Typically the short flat tracks have been good for Ford and SHR and this will be no different especially with a driver with three top-10s in three straight races.

Chris Buescher Top-5 Finish +700

Buescher has top-flight speed in the 17-car this weekend running top-five in most speed metrics in practice. He’s run well at Phoenix in the Next Gen car too which certainly provides value here. When you then add in that he won at Richmond earlier in the year and how similar the setups are for the cars, we have a contender for a top-five finish.

Ross Chastain Top-10 Finish +200 (FanDuel)

Chastain had an 8.3 average running position here in the Spring race. He now has top-10 speed over most of the long-run speed metrics in practice. That’s a recipe for Chastain to finish the year strong at Phoenix with a top-10 finish.

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