After Sunday’s Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway, a champion for the 2022 season will be crowned. Four drivers are eligible to win the championship, but for the first time in 10 years, we may have a different race winner from the season winner.
All cars are now equal with 670 horsepower. No Championship 4 cheats with extra horsepower as we’ve had the last nine seasons. The scales aren’t tilted now, but I don’t think the sportsbooks know this as the odds to win odds are super heavy on the Championship 4 drivers obviously due to past history.
The NextGen car is an equal opportunity monster that had 19 different winners on the season and Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Blaney weren’t one of them. Those two outsiders should be bet as if they can win this week.
CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP BETTING RESOURCES
Date: Sunday, November 6, 2022 Venue: Phoenix Raceway Location: Phoenix, Arizona Distance: 312 miles Laps: 312 Network-Time: NBC - 3:00 p.m. ET Defending Champion: Kyle Larson
CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP PICKS & PREDICTIONS
Here’s a look at what I’m thinking for Sunday’s Phoenix race with odds order courtesy of BetMGM sportsbooks:
CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS
Chase Elliott (5/2) - The 2020 Cup Champion, won by him at Phoenix, is the favorite to win because of his savviness, and his calm, cool, and collected nature. For his resume, I would state he led the series with five wins this season and none were on any of the six road course tracks. The NextGen car was tough to figure out, but they did it best with the most wins. My only problem is that I’m charting an 11th at Phoenix in March, 14th at Richmond in April, runner-up at New Hampshire, and fifth at the fall race at Richmond. Consistent and good but not great as he’s been at other types of tracks.
Christopher Bell (7/2) - He’s the hard-charging Toyota that showed off his skills again last week at Martinsville, but I think most important is his win at New Hampshire in July. Phoenix-Richmond-New Hampshire, that’s the drill for this week and every week at those tracks forever. He won an Xfinity Series race at Phoenix in 2018. And now he can be a Cup Champion. Bizarre, so fast, so young, and we’ve got two of them racing for the title.
“What a dream come true to be racing in the Final 4,” Bell said. “I’m so honored to be in this position and hope to bring home another championship to JGR.”
Joey Logano (4/1) - The 2018 Cup Champion is a two-time winner at Phoenix with seven top-fives and 721 laps led. This is a great track for him. He was eighth in the March Phoenix race, one of the early races using the NextGen car. The last comparable track most recently raced at was Richmond in August and he finished sixth after leading a race-high 222 laps.
Ross Chastain (4/1) - Is this his time? A NASCAR Cup Championship? In his first season racing for Trackhouse Racing? Chastain the champion? He was runner-up in the spring race at Phoenix. I think before we bet him to win we have to ask ourselves if all his scores are settled. He’s drawn the ire of at least 10 drivers for his over-aggressive driving. He’s dialed it down and hasn’t won since Talladega in April, but he’s quite aware of the damage done. The question is whether a driver is willing to exact revenge during the championship race. Who would have the nerve to do this? But at the same time, it’s the best time because his actions caused the problem so why let him win the title? If you don’t do anything as a driver who has been harmed by his aggression, you’re allowing it to happen again by not doing anything. He needs to drive with more respect, but man I love the way he rolls.
Kyle Larson (12/1) - He won this race last season and I feel like he’s more comfortable with the NextGen car than ever right now in race No. 36. He has a 12.4 average finish in 16 starts with six top-fives and 181 laps led.
Denny Hamlin (16/1) - He is the last driver to win a Season Finale that didn’t win a season title with it. That was at Homestead in 2013. This is a track that fits him well – two wins, 16 top-fives, and 854 laps led. It’s in line with him having lots of success at Richmond and New Hampshire. The NextGen car didn’t allow him to crush the smaller tracks as he usually has done throughout his career. Sure he’d love to win his first season title and time is running out, but he has three Daytona 500 wins, and Cup Champions Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart both never won NASCAR’s biggest race.
“We’re obviously disappointed to not have a shot at the championship, but we have a lot to be proud of,” Hamlin said. “It’s been a crazy season for us with a lot of things being thrown at us and I feel like we fought through a lot. We did all that we could last weekend to give ourselves a shot and just missed out by a few points. We still have a lot to race for this weekend. We’re fifth right now in the drivers’ and owners’ points, so we want to hold on to that. With Christopher (Bell) in the Championship 4, we want to do what we can to help him and the 20 team, so it’s definitely still an important weekend for us and JGR as a whole to finish off strong.”
Kevin Harvick (18/1) - There is no one better at Phoenix Raceway’s 1-mile layout ever. That’s all-time. He is a walking statue at Phoenix Raceway, the place he visited often in his early years of racing. In 39 Cup starts at Phoenix, he leads all drivers with an 8.7 average finish, nine wins, 18 top-fives, and 1,663 laps led. He won his 2014 Cup Championship by winning the Finale at Homestead. What does winning a championship say about you, Mr. Harvick?
“I think it says a lot about our team,” Harvick said. “For me, leaving RCR and coming to SHR was a huge risk, and breaking out of my comfort zone and being open-minded to new people and new cars and new things is something I’ve always looked back on and said, ‘That’s why that change was good.’ Don’t ever give up on the evolution and the change of what you need to do to progress with the sport because our sport has an incredible progression rate, as far as how the car progresses, how the rules progress, how the tires progress, how the team progresses, how your driving style progresses – it’s kind of evolve or die, and I think that’s important to remember.”
Ryan Blaney (18/1) - He is the beneficiary of no extra horsepower given to the Championship 4 drivers. He had the best car in the spring race leading a race-high 143 laps and finishing fourth. Four top-fives in 13 Cup starts with 320 laps led. He’s good here. The last two seasons of Season Finale’s at Phoenix have seen Championship 4 drivers 1-2-3-4 in 2020 and last season they were all top-fives with Blaney crashing the party in fourth-place and leading 33 laps with less car. All equal now and Blaney has a list of names all in this race he owes a shove or punt to. There were 19 different drivers to win a race this season and Blaney wasn’t one of them. Blaney was passive, and let terms be dictated to him without retaliation. He’s built this up all season and now it's his time to do the dictating. Crash this Championship party like no one has done in 10 years. The best price I’ve seen on him to win is 20-to-1 at William Hill sportsbooks. Blaney’s revenge, let’s go!