What Happens if a Non-Playoff Driver Ends Up Winning the Cup Championship Race at Phoenix?

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The excitement is palpable, as fans are currently split between cheering for Kevin Harvick or the four championship contenders vying to win the NASCAR Cup finale race. Remarkably, Harvick, who even led for some time during the second stage in Phoenix, has been outperforming the pack for a long time. His last finish outside the top 10 is now a distant memory, a feat all the more impressive considering none of the playoff drivers had even made their NASCAR debut at that time.
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The anticipation heightens with the question: What if a non-playoff driver, such as Kevin Harvick or Ross Chastain—who led a considerable number of laps in the final stage—crosses the finish line first? This scenario isn’t unprecedented; it mirrors a recent event in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series where Christian Eckes clinched the race victory while Ben Rhodes secured the championship by outpacing Grant Enfinger for the coveted championship cup. However, should this unfold in the Cup Series, it would be an inaugural spectacle, adding a thrilling twist to the storied annals of NASCAR history.
The stakes are high as the Phoenix finale looms, presenting a tantalizing question: What if a non-playoff driver claims victory?
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Throughout the season, the track has been a stage for commendable sportsmanship, best exemplified when William Byron graciously yielded to Kevin Harvick, a nod to the veteran’s storied legacy. Unsurprisingly, every playoff contender is fiercely determined to seize the race and, with it, the championship glory.
Yet, the urge to triumph resonates just as strongly in drivers like Harvick, Ross Chastain, and Chase Elliott, each one eager to mark their achievement in the aftermath of the Cup’s conclusion. While Chastain can revel in his Nashville triumph, Harvick and Elliott are vying for a defining victory. For Harvick, especially, a win could be the crowning farewell to NASCAR.
Should Harvick or another playoff driver take the checkered flag, they would be celebrated as Phoenix’s final victor, though the championship crown would still rest on the heads of one of the top four. But what if an unforeseen twist occurs and all championship drivers face wreckage? The rules are clear: the best finisher among the four becomes the champion, their positions cemented by the previous lap before the calamity struck, judged by laps completed and time taken.
Now here’s the most recent development on the race track for those interested: With Bell’s early exit, the choice narrows down to three. The title chase is simple yet thrilling: the driver who outpaces the other two clinches the championship. Bell has been ruled out of the championship battle due to mechanical setbacks, sharpening the focus on who will emerge as the ultimate NASCAR Cup Series champion.
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Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR championship aspirations for 2023 have come to a premature halt
Christopher Bell’s race took a dramatic turn on Lap 109 of 312 when disaster struck. His brake rotor burst and his right front tire failed, catapulting the #20 Toyota into the outside wall with a force that echoed throughout the speedway. Until that moment, Bell had been in a promising sixth position, navigating deftly between Ryan Blaney and William Byron, and had even overtaken Kyle Larson just a handful of laps earlier. Yet, the sudden mechanical breakdown left him no chance to avoid impact. Bell, contending for his premier Cup Series championship, was forced to face the harsh reality of an unfinished race.
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Analyst Steve Letarte pointed out that the root of the incident was the excessive wear on the brakes, a problem Bell had been reporting as a concerning tightness from the start. This unexpected twist not only ended Bell’s race prematurely but also quashed the hope of a championship for Joe Gibbs that seemed within reach.
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