AVONDALE, AZ. – Ryan Blaney was able to secure his first NASCAR Cup Series championship at Phoenix Raceway after taking home a second place finish in the final race of the 2023 season.
Since the first use of the Championship 4 format in 2014, the Championship 4 driver that earns the championship has also won the race, despite the champion just needing to finish in front of the other three Championship 4 drivers. In addition, for the past three years, starting with Chase Elliott in 2020, the Championship 4 driver that goes on to become champion has also won the pole position.
However, Blaney won his first championship on his own terms after neither of these things happened for him. Blaney and the No. 12 team were in the first position after Practice 1 on Friday evening, but ended up starting the race from the 15th position, behind all three other Championship 4 drivers.
Blaney may not have had the ideal starting position, however, the 29-year-old was able to drive up to second place by Lap 211. For the remaining 101 laps, Blaney was able to stay ahead of Kyle Larson (No. 5) who finished third, William Byron (No. 24) who finished fourth and Christopher Bell (No. 20, who had wrecked out of the race on Lap 109 and finished 36th, making him the 2023 Cup Series champion.
After the race, Blaney spoke about what he feels like both he and his team learned after missing out on the Championship 4 last season.
“Yeah, I mean, we had a good shot to get here last year,” Blaney said. “I made mistakes at Vegas and Miami that kept us out. That was pretty brutal for me, for our whole group, right? Whenever you are the one personally making those mistakes, you take it the harshest, right?
“Everyone on the 12 group supported me really well. We kind of set into, Hey, what do we need to get better? What are the areas we need to get better? We did that over the off-season, was able to get here this year. I think we learned a lot from last year from multiple sides.”
Blaney also spoke about what it means to have his family, including his father former Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, in attendance and what encouragement his father had for him throughout this experience.
“No, I mean, he’s been awesome, right? He’s been not only someone I grew up wanting to be like and wanting to do his sport, obviously getting me started in racing, supported me along the way, opened up a lot of doors for me. For him to still be. supportive when I’m an adult is great. His whole thing through the Playoffs was, I see the path, I can see the path to the championship, I can see it.”
In addition to being a third generation racer, Ryan Blaney is not only growing his family’s legacy, but is creating his own. Blaney also spoke in his media availability about what it means to now be a champion of his sport.
“I’m not really sure, too. be honest with you,” Blaney said. “I’m excited to have those opportunities. I really look forward to facing them head on. I feel like if you get the privilege to be a champion of your sport, it is part of your job to promote your sport and do the best you can to be the best champion that you can.
“I’ll be honest with you, that’s a responsibility that I really haven’t thought about yet. I think that’s going to kind of dawn on me the following days.”