NASCAR Championship 4 Preview: Phoenix

Story posted November 5, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Kasey Kreider

And then there was one.

Just 312 laps around the Phoenix Raceway separate four drivers from becoming the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

NASCAR’s annual championship weekend is being held in Phoenix for the third straight year, and each of the top three divisions in the sport will crown their champions on consecutive days.

Ty Majeski, Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes and Chandler Smith will duel for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title on Friday night.

Saturday, the attention shifts to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where Noah Gragson, Ty Gibbs, Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier will all be on the hunt for their first titles.

And then on Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series season of racing caps off, with past champions Joey Logano and Chase Elliott taking on newcomers Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain in a winner-take-all battle.

The task is simple. Whichever Championship 4 driver finishes highest in Sunday’s event will claim the Bill France Cup, and the honor and prestige that goes along with being a Cup Series champion.

While that may not seem like a difficult task to accomplish, consider the fact that since the elimination-style playoff format was introduced in 2014, the championship winner has won the season finale every single year.

In seven of the eight years, the runner-up in the championship has finished second in the season-ending race. And on two separate occasions, all four of the championship contenders have locked out the top four finishing positions.

So while a win technically isn’t necessary, there’s no doubt that all four championship contenders will be at the front fighting for the win in the closing laps.

Joey Logano leads all drivers in the final four as he makes his fifth Championship 4 appearance. Logano has finished in every position among the Championship 4 in his four prior appearances, with his championship coming in 2018.

Chase Elliott is making his third straight Championship 4 appearance and is trying to bring home a third consecutive title for Hendrick Motorsports. After winning his first title in 2020, Elliott’s fifth-place finish in last year’s season-ender put him last among the final four.

For third-year driver Christopher Bell, this is his first Championship 4 appearance, as Bell’s inaugural playoff run last season ended in the Round of 12. However, Bell’s final four berth extends Joe Gibbs Racing’s run as the only team to have put at least one car in the title fight every year since 2014.

For breakout star Ross Chastain, this is not only his first Championship 4 appearance, but his first playoff appearance of any kind. It also marks the first championship opportunity for Trackhouse Racing in its second season.

One advantage that all the teams will have is that this will be their second appearance at the oval in the desert this season.

While Chase Briscoe claimed victory in March, his win came after fending off a difficult challenge from Chastain. The pilot of the No. 1 Chevrolet finished second that day, while Logano finished eighth and both Elliott and Bell came home outside the top 10.

It’s tough to tell just how much of a forecast that race provides for what could be seen on Sunday, as the high stakes ensure that all four teams will bring their A-game when the big show rolls around.

It also can’t be forgotten that there will still be 32 other drivers on the speedway, and while some amount of respect and courtesy will likely be given to the title combatants, every driver in the field wants to go into the offseason on a high note.

But if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that these title races never end in a runaway. And if Chastain’s move at Martinsville last week proves anything, it’s that these drivers will do whatever it takes to ensure that they’re the ones celebrating on the big stage Sunday night.

Kasey Kreider is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email