Associated Press5 Minute Read
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Blaney claimed his first NASCAR championship by outperforming Kyle Larson, William Byron, and even Ross Chastain in a controversial race at Phoenix Raceway.
In his pursuit of victory, Blaney aggressively challenged Chastain, ultimately colliding with him in frustration. This unexpected display of intensity revealed a side of Blaney that had been hidden from the public until now.
Blaney, a normally soft-spoken racer from Ohio, channeled his fiery determination to secure a second-place finish that propelled him to the Cup title.
Team owner Roger Penske, who celebrated back-to-back championships with Blaney’s triumph, reflected on his driver’s heightened frustration level, stating, “You can say his frustration level gets above the boiling point, I’d have to say.”
The confrontation with Chastain was just one of the incidents in which Blaney exhibited his aggression. He had previously made deliberate contact with Martin Truex Jr. and raced Larson with equal intensity. Blaney’s clash with Chastain occurred when he ran into the back of his car, unable to overtake him.
Chastain, who has known Blaney for a decade, was not surprised by his competitor’s anger, stating, “He gets angry. It’s OK. I’ve known him for a decade. I could see him moving around in the car. The car’s going straight. I could see his colorful suit and gloves. When I checked the camera, I was like, ‘Oh, he is angry.'”
Blaney’s outbursts were relayed to his brother-in-law, William Byron. Despite his aggressive behavior, Byron was not taken aback, remarking, “He’s always aggressive. He’s always quick and aggressive. I don’t think it was anything new.”
Meanwhile, Larson closely observed Blaney, ready to pounce on any mistake. The championship was bound to be awarded to the highest-finishing driver among Blaney, Larson, Byron, and Christopher Bell. However, Bell’s early brake rotor failure eliminated him from the race.
Larson, acknowledging Blaney’s quiet demeanor, emphasized his competitor’s intense racing style and fiery temperament, stating, “He’s a quiet guy, but I feel like he races really hard and he gets extremely fired up, too. I’m curious what his radio sounded like.”
Blaney proudly became the first Ohio-born driver to claim the Cup title, following in the footsteps of his teammate Joey Logano’s win for Penske the previous year. Ford Performance, despite struggling throughout most of the season, made a strong finish with Blaney, who secured two victories in the final six playoff races.
A tearful Blaney expressed his gratitude for the opportunity Penske had given him, stating, “What a year. Congrats, RP. Thanks for giving me a shot.”
Penske, who, at 86 years old, had recently battled shingles and missed Blaney’s win at Martinsville Speedway, watched the race calmly from a suite before making his way to the frontstretch to congratulate his driver.
Team Penske’s achievement marks their third Cup title in six seasons, and Blaney has been driving for the team since he was 19 years old in 2013. The goal of securing consecutive NASCAR titles for Penske was at the forefront of Blaney’s mind throughout the week.
Blaney’s racing lineage adds to the significance of his victory. His father, Dave Blaney, a former Cup driver, made 473 Cup starts over 17 seasons and was a World of Outlaws champion. Blaney’s uncle, Dale, was a sprint car champion, and his grandfather, Lou, boasted multiple Midwest titles.
Reflecting on his family’s influence, Blaney acknowledged how special it was to follow in his father’s footsteps, remarking, “To be able to race and let alone compete for wins and championships, still have my parents around, people that you look up to that are still around, it makes it even more special.”
Ultimately, it was Ross Chastain who emerged victorious in the race, driving for Trackhouse Racing. However, his triumph did not diminish Blaney’s accomplishment as he secured the championship. Larson and Byron finished third and fourth respectively, while Bell did not finish the race due to mechanical issues.
As Blaney collided with Chastain, another round of pit stops loomed. A spin by Kyle Busch caused the final caution in the race, allowing Larson to secure the fastest pit stop and gain an advantage over Blaney.
Larson acknowledged Blaney’s resilience in reclaiming his position, stating, “Blaney had to work for it. He really had to work for it… He definitely deserved it and earned it.”
With Larson being the only previous champion among the final four, Blaney, Bell, and Byron were all vying for their first title.
Olivia Carter revs up excitement in the world of NASCAR. As a dedicated motorsports enthusiast, she covers race results, driver profiles, and the latest developments in the NASCAR world, keeping fans on the edge of their seats.