For the first time since 1963 and only the third time in NASCAR history, the NASCAR Cup Series championship is headed for a possible split in the drivers and owners championship. Without overcomplicating matters unnecessarily, here’s an overall explanation for how this is a possibility: When Kurt Busch opted out of the playoffs due to his continued battle with concussion-like symptoms, his No. 45 Stewart-Haas Racing team remained in contention for the owners championship. Replacing Busch in the battle for the drivers championship was Ryan Blaney.
But because Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske group wasn’t eligible for the owners championship, it allowed Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team to remain in the hunt for the owners title even after Larson as a driver was eliminated from the playoffs in the Round of 12.
Heading to Phoenix, Larson’s No. 5 team is one of four teams still in contention for the owners championship. The other three are the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing team, the No. 22 Team Penske team and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 9 team with driver Chase Elliott was eliminated from owners championship contention at Martinsville, although Elliott is still in the running for the drivers championship.
So, if Elliott wins the drivers championship at Phoenix, another team – the highest-finishing team still in the running for the owners title – will celebrate the owners championship. If Larson captures the owners championship for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 team, another driver – the highest-finishing driver still in the hunt for the drivers championship – will claim the drivers championship trophy. However, if Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell or Joey Logano comes out on top, they will earn the drivers championship while their team likewise collects the owners championship.