After three wins, eight top-fives, eighteen top-tens, and 562 laps led, Ryan Blaney finishes highest amongst the championship four to win his first Cup Series Championship. Let’s look at his season, championship weekend, and what is next for the Champion.
Third-generation racer, Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag second on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway but finished as the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Blaney dueled with race winner, Ross Chastain but could not get around him for the race win, but kept himself steadily in front of Kyle Larson to win the title. William Byron would finish in the third position in the championship and Christopher Bell fourth overall.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 6, 2023
Blaney’s Championship Season:
Ending a long winless streak and sweeping the weekend Memorial Day weekend for Penske with his first win at the Coke 600, it was not always smooth sailing. Blaney had a rough mid-season but the #12 team never gave up during the playoffs. A clutch win at Talladega in the Round of Twelve brought the much-needed confidence and speed to continue through the playoffs.
A false disqualification at Las Vegas kept them alive in the round of eight. At Homestead, they battled for the lead all day, showing they were here to win and advance. Martinsville, the last race of the round is where Blaney and his team showed the fans, we are here to win this title. Making quick work of his eleventh-place starting spot, Blaney finished second in stage one. He would win the second stage, lead 145 of 500 laps, and win, locking him into the Championship Four.
Phoenix Race Weekend:
During the media day, Blaney was asked about an X-factor, something he had that the other three drivers did not that would give him the edge over the others. He said;
“X factor? I just look at how we’ve been the last three weeks. Really, really proud of our effort. Our group, I mean, we didn’t really lead at Vegas, but we were super fast there. Had a great shot to win at Miami. Just absolutely whipped everybody at Martinsville last week. I think the momentum we have coming into this weekend is huge.”
Blaney qualified fifteenth, the farthest back of all the championship four. He made up ground throughout the first stage, finishing tenth. He continued his charge, finishing sixth in stage two. Stage three is when the #12 Ford Mustang came alive. Blaney cut through the field, eventually running down leader Ross Chastain. A spin by Kyle Busch put Blaney behind Larson. After working on a pass for three laps Blaney got around Larson and held on for a second-place finish.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 6, 2023
Ryan Blaney’s career:
A third-generation racer, the Blaney name is royalty within the dirt racing world. His grandfather, Lou Blaney, is a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and holds a record of 600 wins in his career. The Blaney family are partial owners and operate Sharon Speedway, a 3/8 mile dirt oval. His father, Dave Blaney, also known as “The Buckeye Bullet” was the 1984 USAC Silver Crown champion and 1995 World of Outlaws Series champion. In 1992, Dave began racing in NASCAR, making 473 starts over a seventeen-year career.
Ryan began his career at the age of nine, starting in Bandoleros, a combination of go-kart and car. He progressed the same as many of his competitors, Legends Cars, Late Models, and then ARCA. In July 2012, he announced he would run select races for Brad Keselowski Racing in Trucks and Team Penske in the Xfinity Series. He would win four Truck races and four Xfinity Series races before he would move up to the Cup Series with the Wood Brothers. In 2017, He would score his first win at Pocono, and the ninety-ninth for the team.
What’s next for Ryan Blaney?
The next stop for Blaney will be the press tour. He will travel the country, going on talk shows to discuss his championship and be a spokesman for the sport. I believe this could be a great marketing opportunity for NASCAR. Blaney is a young driver, just twenty-nine years old. He’s a huge country music fan and Star Wars nerd; two incredibly popular segments of pop culture in the United States. Let’s get him on Saturday Night Live, like Jeff Gordon in 2002, or at Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge with the trophy.
As for on the track, Blaney is in the prime of his career. He has been with Team Penske for all of his professional career, and last year signed a contract extension. While the details of the contract were not shared, the details sound like Blaney and Penske will be a pairing for the next decade. With his ability at Superspeedways, A Daytona 500 win is coming soon, his phenomenal record at Phoenix, and a budding driver-crew chief pairing, Blaney is set for successful next seasons.