Speedway Digest Staff
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- William Byron, you won the pole, but around stage two it seemed to get away from you guys.
WILLIAM BYRON: Once the track rubbered in, we got really tight. Especially when we lost the lead on track, we just had a big balance shift and got tight back in second through fifth, just couldn't gain a lot of speed through one and two, just kind of having to really over-slow the car, get it to the bottom.
That's all we had there.
Just really proud of our Axalta team, great season. It stinks to come up short. I'd like to think we're going to be back in this position and we're going to have more shots at it.
We just got to keep working on the short track program for us. It was definitely the tough part of our season. I felt like we brought a good car this weekend. Really until the track kind of changed, I thought we were in the game.
Yeah, just all we had there.
- What was it like racing with Blaney and Larson?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, I feel like we all raced really hard. I felt like in stage one and two I could kind of take Ryan's lane away a little bit and get him tight. Then once he got in front of us, it was really hard to chase him back down.
With Larson, I thought we were pretty even. It was really who came off pit road. He did a good job the last run. They had more speed than us the last run. The last run of the race we just were pretty tight there.
Yeah, like I said, just really proud of this team. We have had a great season, a lot to be proud of. We're going to keep digging hard. This was a great season for us.
Q. Perfect pit stop there at the end action Kyle, both driver and crew. Walk me through the restart and final laps. What was missing there?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, his car was really fast. Really the last few months. Yeah, especially here today. Our pit crew and pit road really kept us in the game. We weren't the greatest on the track, but I was just hoping for pit stops 'cause I knew the way our team executed our lights, the way our pit crew can execute a fast pit stop, I knew that was going to be our only shot really to win.
They did everything in their power to give us the winning job done there. Huge thank you to them. I needed to come out the leader on that restart. Ross got a really good start from the second row. Was hoping I could get clear of Denny and get the lead, have Ross kind of protect for me behind me.
I'm not sure if it would have made a difference. I was just not as good as a few guys, especially Blaney and Ross probably. It would have been difficult. But my team did a really good job all season, so I'm extremely proud of them. We had an up-and-down year and we finally put together two solid weeks in a row. I don't know if we've done that all year.
Yeah, just huge thank you to Hendrickcars.com, Team Chevy, Valvoline, Jinya Ramen Bar, everybody back at Hendrick Motorsports, the shop. Everyone.
We'll come back next year and try to be stronger.
Q. Blaney pointed out how respectfully everybody raced. How important was it not to do anything egregious in this race?
KYLE LARSON: I tried to take as much as I could in one and two just to see if I could to anything because he was a lot faster.
He was behind me a number of times throughout the race, never touched me. I would say for me, my respect level, it started with him. He raced with a lot of respect early on in the race. He always has, too.
It was fun watching Ryan and William and Bell kind of when he was still out there us all racing hard. Yeah, just a lot of fun there. Congrats to Ryan. He's a deserving champion. Him and his team have done an amazing job. It's been fun to kind of come up through the ranks with him, now you see him be a champion.
Congrats to Team Penske and their whole team. We'll try and beat 'em next year.
- Cup Series champion, Ryan Blaney. Incredible battle with Kyle Larson. What did you say to yourself before the final restart?
RYAN BLANEY: Just time to go to work. I mean, did a good job of getting to where we needed to be. Those guys had two good pit stops. Just need to go to work. Hoping our car was good enough, which it was.
Just so proud of this team. Unbelievable year, unbelievable Playoffs for us. To win back-to-back Cup titles for Mr. Penske, that's so special. Having my family here, winning my first Cup title, I got emotional in the car. I'm not a very emotional guy.
Thank you, guys, for coming. Hope it was an awesome show.
Appreciate Menards/Dutch Boy, Ford, Wurth, Advance Auto Parts, BODYARMOR, Dex Imaging, Wabash, everybody that makes this possible. John Menard is here, so cool to get him a championship. Can't wait to celebrate with my guys.
- What was going through your mind on the final few laps?
RYAN BLANEY: No yellow (laughter). I didn't want a caution. Once I got to the white, felt pretty good about it. It's just about getting there, finishing it off. Didn't want a yellow. Everyone kept it straight. Going good.
I want to shout-out also Kyle and William, that was fun racing those guys all day, and the 20 Bell, unfortunately he broke. Racing those two guys at the end, racing clean, that's what racing is all about. It was a lot of fun.
- Mid-season or early in the Playoffs, how improbable did this championship seem?
RYAN BLANEY: You never want to count yourself out. I mean, I think in the summer we were struggling a little bit. But we never gave up. We just went to work. I've said that all week, like, this group goes to work and they figure out problems. That's why they're such an amazing group to be with, with the Team Penske folks, 'cause they just put their head down and do the work, accept the challenge.
That's what we did. It's not happenstance we started running good through the Playoffs. It was a lot of hard work by a lot of amazing men and women at the shop. I can't thank them enough for that. They deserve this as much as the people who travel here, as 67 as me. They're as big a part of it.
Driver Champion: Ryan Blaney
Team: No. 12 Team Penske Ford
Ryan Blaney has won his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship (2023).
Blaney is the 36th different driver all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series to win a championship.
Blaney finished second in the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway to claim the 2023 title.
In 36 starts this season, Blaney has put up three wins, eight top fives and 18 top 10s.
During the Playoffs this season, Blaney has produced two wins, four top fives, and six top 10s.
Ryan Blaney from High Point, North Carolina, is the 11th NASCAR Cup Series champion from the state of North Carolina; Buck Baker (Charlotte) Dale Earnhardt (Kannapolis) Bobby Isaac (Catawba), Dale Jarrett (Hickory), Ned Jarrett (Newton), Lee Petty (Randleman), Richard Petty (Randleman), Herb Thomas (Olivia), Rex White (Taylorsville), Benny Parsons (Ellerbe).
Owner Champion: Roger Penske, Team Penske
This is Team Penske’s fourth NASCAR Cup Series driver championship - Brad Keselowski, 2012; Joey Logano, 2018, 2022; Ryan Blaney, 2023 – sixth-most all-time in the series.
This is Team Penske’s fourth NASCAR Cup Series owner championship - Brad Keselowski, 2012; Joey Logano, 2018, 2022; Ryan Blaney, 2023 – sixth-most all-time in the series.
This is Team Penske’s 10th NASCAR national series owner championship (four Cup: 2012, 2018, 2022, 2023 and six Xfinity: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2020, 2021) – fourth-most all-time.
Team Penske has led 10 different drivers to Victory Lane for a total of 139 NASCAR Cup Series wins – Mark Donahue, Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric.
Team Penske started their NASCAR Cup Series program in 1972, making their series debut at Riverside International Raceway with driver Mark Donahue.
Crew Chief Champion: Jonathan Hassler
Jonathan Hassler, from Greencastle, Indiana, has won his first NASCAR Cup Series championship (2023) with driver Ryan Blaney.
Hassler is the 43rd different NASCAR Cup Series crew chief to win a championship in the series.
Hassler has three career NASCAR Cup Series wins – all with driver Ryan Blaney.
Finishing Position: 36th
What happened to take you out of the championship race early?
“Well, I mean that was my first time I’ve ever exploded a rotor in my career. So, yeah, I was surprised but early on in the race I had a little bit of brake fade and the second run it just kept getting worse and worse. I don’t know. Just obviously a disappointing way to end. I’m super, super proud of this 20 team and all of our partners at DEWALT and Rheem. To be in the Final 4 is something we’re really proud of.”
Was there any sign of it yesterday in practice?
“Not from my standpoint in the car. No.”
Are you disappointed to be out of the race so early?
“Yeah, I mean it stings to not have a shot at the end of it obviously. We were all four really close and we all four showed strengths at different times. I think it’s going to be a great championship race and whoever wins is going to be well deserving.”
Was there any warning what was happening before you hit the wall?
“Yes, I did have brake fade. In the first run of the race, I did have some pedal fade and I think that was run two – it got worse and worse.”
How do you summarize the season after the rough day today?
“I’m very proud of the effort put forth by our team to get to the Championship 4, but I do feel like we left a lot on the table at various races throughout the year. I’m excited about the future. We haven’t reached our potential yet.”
A Mississippi Lottery player has been declared the NASCAR Powerball Playoff™ Champion in an exhilarating conclusion to the national Powerball® promotion. Stephanie Walker of West Point, MS, won the $1 million grand prize in a drawing broadcast live from Victory Lane at Phoenix Raceway® during pre-coverage of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race™ on NBC.
“Like the NASCAR Playoffs, the anticipation has been building for weeks leading up to this Championship drawing,” said Drew Svitko, Powerball Product Group Chair and Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director. “This has been a wild ride, and we can’t wait to offer our players another opportunity to experience the thrill of the NASCAR Powerball Playoff next year!”
Stephanie was one of four finalists who won a VIP trip for two to NASCAR Championship Weekend, Nov. 3-5, at Phoenix Raceway and entry into the $1 million drawing. The three finalists eliminated from the playoff have each won a $10,000 prize for making it to the Championship 4, they include:
- Donald Pope – Michigan City, IN
- Peter Schmitz – Santa Fe, NM
- Barbara Wipf – Sioux Falls, SD
The VIP trip for the Championship 4 included roundtrip airfare for two to Phoenix, three nights hotel accommodations – double occupancy, two Ally Curve Hospitality Club passes for both the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race on Nov. 4 and the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race on Nov. 5, two passes for VIP experiences at Phoenix Raceway including NASCAR Cup Series™ VIP access, NASCAR team hauler tour, MRN radio booth tour, pace car rides, and Victory Lane access, welcome dinner and all meals, and ground transportation to scheduled events and activities.
“Just like the NASCAR Playoffs, the NASCAR Powerball Playoff Championship drawing has been filled with anticipation and excitement, culminating with Stephanie Walker taking home the $1 million prize,” said Michelle Byron, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Partnership Marketing. “This promotion was a perfect way to engage our loyal fans and lottery players alike, and we can’t wait to see it come to life again next year.”
All finalists entered the national Powerball promotion through one of 24 participating state lotteries. Participating lotteries held in-state contests and second-chance drawings throughout the 2023 NASCAR regular season to form a national pool of entrants. Sixteen semi-finalists were then drawn from the national pool to compete in a series of elimination drawings that mirror the elimination rounds of the NASCAR playoffs. Cash prizes will be awarded to all 16 semi-finalists based on their elimination position.
Lotteries that participated in the inaugural NASCAR Powerball Playoff include Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The NASCAR Powerball Playoff™ will return in 2024 with new participating lotteries. Players should stay tuned to Powerball.com and their local lottery for entry dates and rules.
NASCAR® is a registered trademark of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC. Copyright ©2023 National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NASCAR®, LLC is not a sponsor of this promotion.
Champion: Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Race Winner: Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: John Hunter Nemechek of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
SHR Race Finish:
● Cole Custer: Started 7th/Finished 1st; Running, completed 202 of 202 laps
● Riley Herbst: Started 9th/Finished 4th; Running, completed 202 of 202 laps
● Cole Custer: 1st with 4,040 points
● Riley Herbst: 13th with 904 points
● This is Custer’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. He finished runner-up in the standings in his most recent fulltime seasons in the series in 2018 and 2019.
● This marks the second time Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has won an Xfinity Series championship. Custer delivered the owner’s title in 2018.
● This marks the seventh Xfinity Series championship for Ford and its second in the last four years after Austin Cindric won in 2020. Ford’s other champions include Greg Biffle (2002), Carl Edwards (2007), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-12), and Chris Buescher (2015).
● Ford’s Mustang brand has earned a drivers’ or owners’ championship in all but three seasons since joining the Xfinity Series in 2011.
● Custer’s victory marked SHR’s 25th Xfinity Series victory, its fourth of the season and its first at Phoenix.
● This was SHR’s 101st overall victory (69 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins, six non-points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins, 25 Xfinity Series wins and one ARCA Menards Series West win)
● This was Custer’s 13th career Xfinity Series victory and his 12th with SHR.
● This was Custer’s third victory of 2023 and his first win in eight career Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix.
● Custer led four times for a race-high 96 laps to increase his laps-led total at Phoenix to 140.
● Custer’s margin of victory over second-place Sheldon Creed was .601 of a second.
● This was Custer’s 14th top-five and 21st top-10 of the season. It was his third top-five and sixth top-10 at Phoenix.
● This was Custer’s sixth straight top-12 at Phoenix.
● Custer finished second in Stage 1 to earn nine bonus points and he won Stage 2 to earn 10 more bonus points.
● Herbst earned his 10th top-five and 17th top-10 of the season. It was his fourth top-five and sixth top-10 in nine career Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix.
● This was Herbst’s fifth straight top-five. He finished fourth Oct. 7 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, won Oct. 14 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finished second Oct. 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and finished fourth last Saturday at Martinsville (Va.) Raceway.
● This was Herbst’s second straight top-five and third straight top-10 at Phoenix. He finished seventh in the season finale last November and fourth in March.
● Herbst’s fourth-place finish equaled his previous best finish at Phoenix, earned on three separate occasions (March 2021, November 2021 and March 2023).
● Herbst finished 10th in Stage 2 to earn one bonus point.
“I thought it was over. I mean, I went from first to third and I was able to shift the car all night and the Doug Yates horsepower worked out and pulled me off the corner. I can’t believe we won that thing after going back to third on that (last) restart, but I can’t say enough about these guys. I mean, we started the year off and it was a struggle and we kind of had to dig deep with each other and really talk about how to get better. To see how much this group has grown through the year and to be a part of something, I knew I wanted to work with JT (crew chief Jonathan Toney). I knew that he was the guy that could make it happen and I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else. I just can’t thank Gene Haas enough. He’s given me opportunities and I wouldn’t be here without him. I can’t thank him enough, and Ford Performance, Haas Automation, everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s awesome to bring one back to Stewart-Haas right now. It means the world. Being so close a couple times this year and how the last few years have gone, I mean, these guys still believe in me and have given me really fast racecars and just digging all year. We did such a great job just getting better and better every week. These guys just brought a rocket ship tonight. It’s a very proud moment winning this championship with these guys. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.” – Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang
The next event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the 2024 season opener on Feb. 17 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The race begins at 5 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.