Blaney Adds to Family Tree’s Roots as NASCAR Champion

The name Blaney has a long history in racing.

Now, thanks to its latest generation, that history includes: NASCAR Champion.

Ryan Blaney, 29, the son of former Cup Series driver Dave Blaney and the nephew of sprint car champion Dale Blaney and grandson of Midwest sprint legend Lou Blaney, won the 2023 premier series championship in stock car racing on Sunday when he outraced the other Championship 4 drivers at Phoenix.

“As a kid, I just wanted to do what dad did,” the driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang said after finishing ahead of Kyle Larson, William Byron and Christopher Bell to take second in the finale. “So to be able to race, 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.”

Ross Chastain won the season finale, gaining his second victory of the season for consecutive two-win campaigns.

After Larson and Byron in third and fourth, Chris Buescher was fifth, with the rest of the top 10 made up by Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick (in his career finale), Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace.

A brake rotor failure left Bell, able to complete only 108 laps, in 36th.

Panini America NASCAR Brand Ambassador Joey Logano logged a 17th-place finish to cap the season with a victory, 11 top-fives, 17 top-10s and two poles for the defending series champion.

Harvick’s finish marked the 444th top-10 of his 23-year career, which includes the 2014 championship in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It was pretty cool to lead some laps there in the last race,” he said. “I’m just proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, everybody that works on this car and has worked on this car. I’ve just got to thank all the fans and NASCAR and my family and everybody for all of the support. It’s been a great ride, and I can’t complain.”

Aric Almirola also bid a farewell after completing his last run with the No. 10 team at SHR. “I will certainly miss competing at the top level and stepping into that race car and feeling like a gladiator going to battle in front of a packed-out race track,” he said.

Blaney’s victory meant consecutive titles and four overall for Team Penske, including Logano’s 2018 and ’22 crowns and Brad Keselowski’s ’12 title.

“Having a shot to go back-to-back championships in Cup for RP, he’s never done that before,” Blaney said with pride. “And it’s not often you get to do something that Mr. Penske hasn’t done in motorsports.”

Blaney also did something never done by an Ohioan. The Hartford Township native is the first NASCAR king born in the Buckeye State.

There will be plenty to talk about at the Thanksgiving table in the Blaney home.

“I grew up admiring racing,” Blaney said. “Dad won a World of Outlaws championship, Dale won an All-Star (Circuit of Champions) championship, my grandfather won a bunch of track championships around the country. It’s nice to win ours on a big stage as well.”

His dad was bursting with pride, as well, as he watched his son overtake Larson and Byron after they beat him off pit road for the closing run.

“Watching him going to have to pass those guys for about the third time to get it — and he took care of it,” said Dave Blaney, who had 28 career top-10s in Cup and a best points finish of 19th in 2002 for Jasper Motorsports. “I’m proud of him and the whole team.”

The champion’s fellow competitors credited him, too.

“His car was really fast. Really, the last few months, especially here today,” said Larson, who was seeking a second championship in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Byron, also running for Hendrick, couldn’t get his No. 24 right. “Just had to really slow the car to get it to the bottom,” he said.

Bell couldn’t believe his luck in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota Camry TRD.

“My first time I’ve ever exploded a rotor in my career,” he said. “So, yeah, I was surprised, but early on in the race I had a little bit of brake fade, and the second run, it just kept getting worse and worse.”

Meanwhile, holding the checkered flag, Chastain thanked his No. 1 Chevy team for its final adjustment on his Camaro. “Came up with a way to make this hot rod turn,” he said. “She turned that last run and drove off into the sunset.”

 

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