The 2022 Cup Series championship will be decided at Phoenix Raceway on November 6. Days prior to the all-important race, Kyle Petty has made his prediction about who will celebrate a win.
Petty made the prediction during an episode of NASCAR’s “Backseat Drivers.” He and Mamba Smith faced questions from Alex Weaver about whether there will be a first-time champion in 2022. Mamba said that he expects someone other than past champions Joey Logano and Chase Elliott. Petty then chimed in with his own comments.
“That’s tough. You know, I kind of think that too,” Petty said. “I just get the feel this year. I’m just looking at the total year and how crazy and wild this year has been. How crazy the playoffs have been for Christopher Bell, what he’s done in these playoffs.
“You look at what Ross Chastain and Trackhouse Racing has done as a new organization. So it just feels like new car, new champion, new everything this year.”
Petty Prematurely Revealed His Pick
Neither Petty nor Smith initially revealed their picks for the Cup Series champion. They didn’t say if it would be Chastain or Bell. However, Petty ultimately had to prematurely reveal his choice during a different conversation.
Weaver asked the two analysts who would win the owner’s championship. This was an important distinction considering that only three of the drivers in the championship four also have their cars in. Kyle Larson’s No. 5 is in the owner’s championship while Chase Elliott’s No. 9 is not.
“This just hedges my other [pick], but I say Trackhouse,” Petty said. He then explained that he chose Chastain due to how he thinks outside of the box and how much he wants to be a champion.
There is a scenario where two different organizations celebrate championships. If, for example, Larson wins the race at Phoenix, he will capture the owner’s title for Hendrick Motorsports. The driver’s champion would be the championship-eligible driver with the best finishing position.
Another Championship Hopeful Has a Not-So-Secret Weapon
Both Mamba and Petty explained why they think Chastain will win the championship during the episode of “Backseat Drivers” on October 31. However, there is one important reason why Bell will be in a solid position entering championship weekend.
The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD will make his debut in the championship four, but he will have a not-so-secret weapon. Bell’s crew chief is someone with extensive experience.
Adam Stevens is the man atop the pit box for Bell and the No. 20 team. He has been in this role since the start of the 2021 season, and he has guided Bell to four career wins.
Prior to joining the No. 20 team, Stevens served as the crew chief for Kyle Busch. He was atop the No. 18 pit box from 2015 until 2020, a run that featured 28 trips to Victory Lane. Stevens and Busch also won the Cup Series championship two times while making five appearances in the final round.
“I know what to expect out of these weekends,” Stevens said about his championship experience on October 30. “We had a streak there where we went to quite a few of them in a row. We finished in every possible spot you can finish in a four-car battle. It happened to be first a couple times.
“Other than that, probably not. It’s going to be who can bring the best car and do the best job. But I think we showed what this team’s capable of tonight. I feel really good about the spot we’re in. I feel really good about the progress we’ve made this year as a team, with our setups and our package, what we’re trying to accomplish.”