He now has the opportunity to become just the 18th different driver in history to win multiple Cup Series titles. To get there he’ll have to beat Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, and his Hendrick Motorsports team-mate William Byron.
Larson believes that “you can make a case for all of us on why each of us could or should be the champion, adding: “I mean, obviously you look at recent speed and stuff, Blaney probably to me stands out to be the best. If I was setting odds, I would put him as the favorite. Again, not by much. I think we’re all four pretty equal. It should be a really good race. I think whoever wins on Sunday is a very deserving champion.”
In truth, each driver has something going for them. Bell is a proven closer when the pressure is on and is the only driver to make the final four in both years of the Next Gen era.
All the momentum appears to be with Blaney though, who may have finished second in the 2022 Phoenix finale, but it was right behind his Penske team-mate Joey Logano as he claimed his second title.
Byron has more wins than any other driver this year and holds the best average finish. He is also the most recent winner at Phoenix, taking the checkered flag there in March of this year.
And then you have Larson, already a champion and one of the most highly skilled and respected racers in the NASCAR garage. So what does he think needs to happen to be crowned a champion yet again on Sunday?
“I think full stop, you need to have speed in your race car,” he said during championship Media Day. “I think a lot like we did in 2021, obviously I would love to have the fastest car and just dominate, but I think you just got to keep yourself in contention.
“If things aren’t going perfectly or you’re not leading the race with 40 or 50 to go, don’t lose hope. I think just continue to plug away and something may change the race. Just be in contention to let your team kind of pick you guys up. Like I said, a lot like what happened in 2021. We were running fourth. I was losing hope. We had a caution, had a chance for a pit stop, and the rest is history. Yeah, I think just keeping yourself in contention, just doing the best job you can. Whatever results come, just be proud of that.”
Qualifying is likely going to be critical as well. Logano won last year’s race (and the championship) from pole position. In fact, the Phoenix Cup winner has come from the…