AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Blaney is set to make his first Championship 4 appearance on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway.
Blaney and the No. 12 team entered Martinsville 10 points above the cut line to advance into the Championship 4, and ended up leading 145 laps of the 500 lap race and winning the race to secure his chance to race for the championship this weekend.
The 29-year-old also took home an imperative runner-up finish at Homestead alongside a sixth place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Blaney spoke about his team having arguably the most consistent Round of 8 appearance among the playoff drivers.
“I think what we’ve been doing the last three weeks, we’re plenty capable of winning the championship,” Blaney said. “The execution we’ve had has been pretty remarkable. I feel like we had the best speed and best races out of anybody in the Round of 8. You just hope to keep doing that. Our group can.”
While this is Blaney’s first chance to race for the championship, the Team Penske driver has made it to the Round of 8 four other times, in 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022 but always seems to hit a series of bad luck. Blaney also spoke on what he feels is different about this year’s playoffs, and how he has started preparing differently for the Championship race at Phoenix.
“This group is definitely poised to do it,” he said. “We had a good shot at it last year. I think we learned from what kept us from winning a championship last year and have been able to apply it this year. Just have to go do our job Sunday.
“The prep work, okay, maybe it’s a little bit more extensive as far as, you know, but I already do all the stuff,” Blaney added. “I already go through previous races. Jonathan and I talk all week about what we’re going to do, what the plan is. Maybe just a little bit more in detail about, okay, little tiny things that you try to think of these things in your head: What if this happens? What is our plan? You kind of just plan a little bit more for things that could happen. I think that’s more of the things that we’ve done differently than what we normally did, that what we did last week going into Martinsville.”
Notably, Blaney also has a very respectable track record at Phoenix, especially in the Next Gen car. Last time the Cup Series raced at Phoenix in March, Blaney brought home an eighth place finish, alongside a runner up finish the final race of 2022 and a win the March before that.
Blaney spoke on his success at Phoenix and what that means for both him and his team preparing to race for the championship this year.
“Yeah, this track kind of fits what we do in this car especially,” he said. “Even in years past, we’ve been strong here in the older generation car. But especially this Next Gen car, we’ve been really strong. Had a great shot to win this thing in the fall last year. Hopefully you can bring that same speed and build on what you learned.”