Charlotte Observer reporters Shane Connuck and Alex Zietlow, are at the scene of Phoenix Raceway, where the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be decided. They’ll be passing along updates as they happen this afternoon.
See those musings in the section below. Refresh this page as needed. All times are Eastern (Phoenix is two hours behind).
Live updates for this race have concluded. For the latest on the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series title, click here.
NASCAR Cup Series championship race updates
Lap 312: IT’S OVER! Ryan Blaney is your 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion after finishing second at Phoenix. Ross Chastain won the race, but that was immaterial. Kyle Larson finished third in the race to take second in the title chase. William Byron finished in fourth in the race, third in the title chase.
Christopher Bell crashed out earlier in the race. He finished fourth in the Championship 4. Kevin Harvick comes in seventh in his final Cup Series race.
Lap 307: Five to go and Ryan Blaney has a lock on this unless Kyle Larson can find more speed somewhere. His gam from 2-3 is now 1.2 seconds. William Byron is another 2.2 back of Larson.
Lap 300: Twelve to go, and Ryan Blaney is in the, um, driver’s seat. His gap in second to Kyle Larson in third is almost a full second. William Byron is again almost two back of Larson.
Lap 295: Blaney makes a move past Larson. Chastain widens his lead, but Blaney now in front of Larson, Byron.
Lap 290: Twenty-two to go, Larson holding off Blaney in the 2-3 battle. Byron is dealing with pressure from Chris Buescher in a 4-5 battle, making it harder for him to go after the other two drivers,
Lap 285: Three-wide racing for two laps after the restart at the front! Hamlin won’t give up that front spot easily, Chastain gets a good run on the outside and Larson tries to take the lead from the inside. Chastain eventually takes the top spot back, Kyle Larson settles into second, but now Blaney and Byron are 3-4. Good finish setting up here.
Lap 278: Yellow-flag pit stops help shuffle the deck again. Some cars take two tires and get off pit road faster, while others take four tires. Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones take two only, ans are now officially the race leaders, while Kyle Larson slots in at third, just ahead of Ross Chastain in fourth. William Byron and Ryan Blaney run 5-6. Also, our courtesy check on Kevin Harvick... he runs ninth in his final Cup Series race.
Lap 276: Caution is out! This field will bunch up at the start, and this could be a big ol’ cluster. Caution out for the No. 8 car of Kyle Busch, who got sideways near the wall with no other contact.
Lap 275: Ryan Blaney just will not let that battle sit at the top. He passes Martin Truex Jr. for second position and sets his sights on Ross Chastain in first. Meanwhile, Kyle Larson, who’s been running pretty much in clean air, has closed the gap from more than two seconds to about 1.2.
Lap 263: Ryan Blaney is engaging in some serious racing for the lead here, with Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr., two non-title contenders gunning for the front spot. Blaney has to be careful here. As things settle a bit, Blaney does back off, settles into third position. Now our Championship 3 (Christopher Bell is out) is running 3-4-5.
Lap 260: The race leader is now a title contender. Well, it was. Ryan Blaney got a taste of the lead for a single lap before Ross Chastain pushed back
Lap 256: The pit stop cycle is now complete. Ross Chastain is now officially back in front, with Ryan Blaney in second, Truex in third, Larson in fourth and Byron in fifth.
Lap 250: William Byron hasn’t shown any “catch-up-and-pass” speed today. He was out in front early by virtue of his pole position start, but has been slowly working his way backward through the field throughout the day. He’s going to need to find a new gear here in the final 50 laps if he hopes to turn his NASCAR-leading win total of 2023 into a title run this season.
Lap 245: Green-flag pit stops start! This could be the last big chance for anyone to make a move here. As everyone cycles through, Ryan Blaney maintains his second position behind Ross Chastain... just barely. Chastain beat Blaney off pit road by a whisker. Martin Truex Jr. is back out there in third, and Kyle Larson has leapfrogged William Byron into fourth overall. Byron runs fifth. (This is of course behind the three cars who have yet to pit).
Lap 230: Ross Chastain continues to lead the race overall, which would have been helpful a couple of months ago. Ryan Blaney continues to run in second, which is helpful now. Blaney has Martin Truex Jr. as a buffer between him and fourth-place and fellow C4 contender William Byron, who has been in or around the top 5 all day. Kyle Larson lurks in fifth. Of note, Kevin Harvick, who almost never finishes outside the Top 10 at Phoenix, is in seventh.
Lap 215: William Byron loses a spot as Martin Truex Jr. vaults into third place, slotting in between Ryan Blaney and Byron.
Lap 213: Ryan Blaney has passed William Byron into the top Championship 4 spot, second overall in the race. Byron runs third, Larson fifth.
Lap 193: The field files down pit lane, and here’s what we got to start Stage 3: Ross Chastain, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones. Also of note: There have only been five lead changes but four leaders — Byron, Chastain, Harvick and Buescher. Byron led the first 60 laps and has 93 total laps led on the day.
Lap 185: Chris Buescher takes Stage 2 win. Cool. But what about the Championship 4? Christopher Bell is out, WIlliam Byron finished fourth, Ryan Blaney finished sixth and Kyle Larson finished seventh. Blaney in particularly has great speed but hasn’t been able to overtake Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Byron. Could our champion not win the Phoenix finale this year? The way Buecher, Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick are running, it’s possible. If so, it would be the first time the champion didn’t win the final race since 2013 (when Denny Hamlin won the final race and Jimmie Johnson won the championship).
Lap 173: Chris Buescher moves into the lead, passing Ross Chastain. Kevin Harvick is third, Martin Truex fourth. Championship contenders William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson continue running fifth through seventh.
Lap 154: The three finalists run fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Ross Chastain has been fast here in Stage 2 and has surged to the lead. Chris Buescher passed Kevin Harvick for second place.
Your Top 10: Chastain, Buescher, Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones and Brad Keselowski.
Lap 116: We’re green green green! Now all eyes turn to the Championship 3.
Lap 110: Christopher Bell said on his radio that his car is “killed.” The first of the Championship 4 has been eliminated. More to come from the infield care center soon.
Lap 108: Christopher Bell makes contact with the wall! Brakes explode, which makes him rub on the fence and makes the right-side tires go flat. The right-front tire even catches fire. The caution flag is out. The Championship 4 contender’s Toyota Camry limps to pit road — but it’s not looking good.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 5, 2023
Lap 102: Harvick continues leading, and the Championship 4 drivers find themselves even closer together two seconds back. Ryan Blaney has passed William Byron for third place. Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson run sixth and seventh, respectively.
Your Top 10: Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain, William Byron, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones.
Lap 93: Kevin Harvick passes William Byron for the lead! In his final race, Harvick has been running second and finally ran down the leader. Byron runs less than a split-second behind.
Lap 82: The Championship 4 drivers continue running well as Stage 2 rolls on. Christopher Bell is up to sixth, Ryan Blaney fifth and Kyle Larson fourth. William Byron has led since the start.
Your Top 10: Byron, Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain, Larson, Blaney, Bell, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones.
Lap 64: Pretty much the entire field files down pit road. William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain all held serve — and Kyle Larson gained a spot. Your Top 10 heading into Stage 2: Byron, Harvick, Chastain, Larson, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney (who gained four spots after finishing Stage 1 in P10), Christopher Bell (from P9), Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin.
Lap 60: William Byron led every lap en route to a Stage 1 win. Not that the Charlotte native cares about that on this day; all that matters is the win at Phoenix. The Top 10 after that: Kevin Harvick (who was close to clearing Byron), Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney.
Lap 55: Brad Keselowski missed qualifying yesterday due to the birth of his first son, then made it back to Phoenix today. He started in the rear and has worked his way up to 18th.
Byron continues leading as Stage 1 winds down.
Lap 48: Not much movement on the leader board. William Byron, the Championship 4 contender who started on the pole, has been leading since the race began. Kevin Harvick, in his final race, continues running second.
Your Top 10, with 12 laps left in Stage 1: Byron, Harvick, Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Chris Buescher, Erik Jones, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin. Ryan Blaney is 11th.
Lap 19: Ryan Blaney says on his radio that he’s lacking right rear grip. The Championship 4 driver runs 14th.
Lap 6: William Byron has held onto the lead through the first few laps, but Kyle Larson, who started fourth, is nipping at his heels in third. Kevin Harvick running second. Larson is looking great heading into Turn 1, clearly on his game early. Still, though, Larson is 1.5 seconds behind the leader. The rest of the Top 10 now that everything has settled a bit: Byron, Harvick, Larson, Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ross Chastain, Erik Jones, Ty Gibbs, Tyler Reddick.
Green flag, 3:33 p.m.: And the green flag waves! The NASCAR Cup Series championship has begun!
3:24 p.m.: Engines have been fired! Racing in about 10 minutes from Phoenix. Watch on NBC.
2:47 p.m.: Driver’s meeting is overwith, the grid is hot, driver intros have begun and we’re almost ready to race. One note from the driver’s meeting: Kevin Harvick was honored, as he has been at so many different places, and he received a standing ovation from the drivers and the VIP in attendance. You could see the emotion behind his sunglasses and hat. It seems Sunday’s reality has sunk in; the driver of the 4 car will run one last time.
— Shane Connuck (@shane_connuck) November 5, 2023
1:25 p.m.: Some timing info for today, from NASCAR:
▪ The invocation will be at 3:12 p.m.
▪ The United States Air Force Singing Sergeants will perform the national anthem at 3:13.
▪ At 3:23, NASCAR legends Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch will join four aspiring youth racers — including 9-year-old Giselle Hicks of Mooresville — and give the command.
▪ Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll will wave the season’s final green flag at 3:32 p.m.
1:10 p.m.: Cole Custer, who won last night’s Xfinity Series championship, qualified 31st in Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford Mustang yesterday as Keselowski’s wife went into labor in North Carolina. At time of publication it is unclear if Keselowski will race; Custer is on standby. (Update: Keselowski is racing.)
1:05 p.m.: Oh ... where to begin! You’ve read our predictions column. You’ve read what’s at stake today for “brothers in law” William Byron and Ryan Blaney. And you’ve read why the venerated veteran Kyle Larson is unfazed, as well as how Christopher Bell and the rest of NASCAR’s next generation is feeling. So what now?
Sit tight. That’s all you can do. Byron will begin on the pole, with Martin Truex Jr. starting alongside him. Kevin Harvick and Larson will begin in the second row. Bell will begin 13th, and Blaney will start 15th. (View the full starting lineup here.) Racing soon — stay tuned!
How to watch NASCAR at Phoenix
Race: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Place: Phoenix Raceway
Date: Sunday, Nov. 5
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)