Ryan Blaney has advanced to his first championship appearance with his win at Martinsville. Has he dethroned Kyle Larson as the favorite to win the 2023 Cup Series Championship?
Ryan Blaney and his #12 Ford Mustang have been on fire during the Round of Eight. Top ten in Las Vegas, Second in Homestead, and capping it off with a win at Martinsville. With an average finish this round of third, Blaney and his team have peaked at the right time, which might lead them to a championship.
Many said, Including myself, that the Bill France Cup should have just been handed to Kyle Larson following his win at Las Vegas. Larson has found himself the one competitor who could give him a fight at Phoenix for the championship. Let’s examine his season and how he stacks up against his competition in the Championship Four.
Thank you Martinsville and all of our amazing Partners and supporters! Our crew got it done, but the big one is still waiting for us in Phoenix. We are ready. Let’s go. pic.twitter.com/gOxHVWJ7LS
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) October 30, 2023
Blaney’s 2023 Season:
This year has been a big one for Ryan Blaney. Previously, his best season was 2021, where he would win three races, Atlanta, Michigan, and Daytona, and finished seventh in the points standings. Since that win at Daytona, Blaney went the entire 2022 season, winless. Until this year’s Coke 600.
Winless for fifty-nine races, Blaney showed he still had the winning potential. Winning stage three and leading 163 laps, Blaney showed NASCAR fans that he was back to his winning ways. But the mid-season string of road courses and the regular season finale left him with a string of poor finishes.
Once the playoffs began, Blaney put together some solid runs. Ninth at Darlington to begin, a top-fifteen at Kansas kept him in the hunt, but a 22nd-place finish at Bristol did not help. A crash at Texas resulted in a DNF, but the following week, his luck would turn around.
Some say Talladega is a game of luck, but why do the same drivers keep winning there? The #12 Mustang would qualify tenth, lead only eight laps, and lock themselves into the round of eight. It was Blaney’s third win at the track, and the margin of victory was only .012 seconds.
Finish to the 2023 YellaWood 500 @ Talladega.
Ryan Blaney's onboard pic.twitter.com/gjyejrYSTR
— Andrew (@Basso488) October 2, 2023
The Round of Eight is where this #12 Team came alive. Finishing sixth at Las Vegas to open the round, the post-race inspectors originally disqualified the car. NASCAR claimed the shocks on the car did not fit the templates required by NASCAR, but the templates were found to be faulty. The points and finish were reinstated and Blaney kept his spot inside the top four. At Homestead-Miami the next week, Blaney was the car to beat. He battled with Larson, Hamlin, Byron, and eventual race winner Christopher Bell. That sums up Blaney’s season up until this weekend.
Can Blaney Win at Phoenix?
In the fifteen races that Blaney has raced at Phoenix Raceway, he has never won, but he has a record of poles and top-five finishes. In the last five races at Phoenix, Blaney has qualified as low as eighth and finished as low as tenth. He has finished in the top five, six times, the top ten, ten times. He might have won the final race of the season last year if his teammate Joey Logano wasn’t running in second, racing for the championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had Blaney as his pick for the champion at the beginning of the season, and said “I’m gonna stick with that”. Dale Jarrett said, “He has matured into the driver we thought was there all along”. Big praises from some NASCAR royalty.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 30, 2023
I think Blaney has the momentum. He and the #12 team have got hot at the right time in the season. Did Larson and the #5 team utilize the time in these last two races to build an unbeatable car? We will have to watch and see. But one thing that seems to be guaranteed is that Blaney is a force to be reckoned with at Phoenix.