Friday, Dec 08

Ford Performance - Phoenix Championship Advance

The 2023 NASCAR season comes to an end this weekend as champions will be crowned in all three major touring series at Phoenix Raceway, beginning with Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. That will be followed by the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Ford drivers Ben Rhodes (NCTS), Cole Custer (NXS) and Ryan Blaney (NCS) are Ford’s title hopefuls in those events. 



Ryan Blaney will be making his first appearance in the Championship 4 after winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway. It was his third victory of the season and second in the playoffs (Talladega). In the Round of 8, Blaney was solid with finishes of sixth (Las Vegas), second, (Homestead) and first (Martinsville).



Sunday will mark Ryan Blaney’s 16th career NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix Raceway and he’s looking to continue a roll that has seen him post four straight Top-5 finishes. 


After registering back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2021 and 2022, Blaney has gone on to post second-place efforts in his last two starts. Overall, Blaney has 10 Top-10 and six Top-5 performances at the one-mile track.


A year ago in this event, Blaney qualified second and led 109 laps. He finished second in Stage 1 and won Stage 2 before ending up second overall to Penske teammate Joey Logano, who won the race and the championship.



Ford has won the NASCAR Cup Series championship 10 times by eight different drivers, including last season when Joey Logano won for the second time in his career (2022 and 2018). The only other multiple Ford champion is David Pearson, who won titles back-to-back in 1968 and 1969 while driving for Holman-Moody. Ford’s other champions include: Ned Jarret (1965), Bill Elliott (1988), Alan Kulwicki (1992), Dale Jarrett (1999), Matt Kenseth (2003), Kurt Busch (2004), and Matt Kenseth (2005).



Sunday marks the last race of Kevin Harvick’s NASCAR Cup Series career and for the last seven seasons since Stewart-Haas Racing joined Ford, he has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments that include:


  • 251 starts going into this weekend at Phoenix
  • 14 poles (most among Ford drivers during that time)
  • 97 Top-5 and 159 Top-10 finishes
  • 25 wins (10th on the all-time Ford list)
  • Made NASCAR history by winning on consecutive days at the same track (Aug. 8-9, 2020 @ Michigan)
  • Won Ford’s 700th all-time Cup race (Aug. 23, 2020 @ Dover)
  • Kissed the bricks at Indianapolis (July 5, 2020)
  • Won the Southern 500 at Darlington (Sept. 6, 2020)
  • Led all drivers with nine wins in 2020
  • Qualified for the playoffs every year
  • Advanced to the Championship 4 three times


Sunday’s season finale will mark the end of Kevin Harvick’s Hall of Fame career and there isn’t a more appropriate place on the circuit to celebrate his accomplishments than Phoenix Raceway. 


That’s because Harvick holds the record with nine career NASCAR Cup Series wins at the facility with his latest coming in 2018. That represents the most victories for Harvick at any track currently on the NASCAR schedule. Michigan International Speedway ranks second with six while New Hampshire and Richmond are next with four apiece. 


In addition, Harvick goes into Sunday’s scheduled race having posted 20 consecutive top-10 finishes at Phoenix. The streak started in 2013 when he won the next-to-last race of the season, igniting a six-race stretch that saw him win five times, including four straight, and finish second once.



Cole Custer earned his third career NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 berth with his gutsy performance at Martinsville. 


In his previous two appearances, Custer has done everything but win. He captured the pole and finished second in the race to Tyler Reddick in 2018, but managed to claim the owner’s championship for Stewart-Haas Racing. History repeated the following year as Custer qualified second and finished in the runner-up position once again to Reddick. 


The difference between those two opportunities and this one is that the track for the final race has changed from Homestead-Miami Speedway to Phoenix Raceway, where Custer will be making his eighth series start. In the previous seven, he has an average finishing position of 8.9 and is coming off a pole run during the last series visit in March.



Ford has captured the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship six times with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. being the only multiple title winner when he won back-to-back in 2011-12. Greg Biffle claimed Ford’s first series championship in 2002 for car owner Jack Roush and Carl Edwards did the same in 2007. Chris Buescher gave Roush his fifth title in 2015 before Austin Cindric came through in an overtime restart to win the championship in 2020.



This will mark the third straight Championship 4 appearance for Ben Rhodes and he’s hoping to win just like Zane Smith did a year ago when he accomplished the same feat. Rhodes, who won the title with ThorSport in 2021, finished second in the race and second in the championship to Smith last season. Friday night’s race will be Rhodes’ ninth series start at Phoenix Raceway and while he has yet to reach victory lane, his results have been impressive. He has never qualified outside the top 10 and has finished fourth or better three times in the last four years.



Ford has produced three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions, including two of the last four overall. Greg Biffle was the first to lift the trophy in 2000 while driving for Jack Roush. He was followed by Matt Crafton in 2019, which marked his third overall title, and then Zane Smith in 2022 as Front Row Motorsports celebrated its first championship in one of NASCAR’s major series.


Ford Performance PR


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