Ryan Blaney only needed to outperform Kyle Larson and William Byron to secure his first NASCAR championship. 스포츠중계
However, he also included Ross Chastain, racing him aggressively for no apparent reason during Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway. When he failed to overtake Chastain, Blaney, in frustration, bumped into the back of his car.
This side of Blaney is all too familiar to his team and competitors.
The usually reserved third-generation racer from Ohio utilized a fiery second-place finish at Phoenix to clinch the Cup title, revealing a seldom seen combative spirit within the typically placid Blaney.
“His frustration level can certainly escalate beyond the boiling point,” team owner Roger Penske observed, after celebrating back-to-back Cup titles thanks to Blaney’s performance.
Blaney’s collision with Chastain was preceded by an earlier intentional bump with Martin Truex Jr. Blaney also raced Larson hard and he lost his patience with Chastain, the race leader and eventual winner, with 53 laps left, resulting in Blaney bumping into Chastain’s rear.
Chastain, believing that Blaney also showed him an inappropriate hand gesture, wasn’t surprised, remarking, “He gets angry. It’s OK. I’ve known him for a decade. I could see him moving around in the car.”
Byron, who is dating Blaney’s younger sister Erin, was informed about Blaney’s behavior.
“Blaney is losing it,” Byron was told over the radio. Byron, who won a Cup Series high six races this year, started from the pole and led 96 laps early.
“He’s always aggressive,” Byron noted with a grin. “He’s always quick and aggressive. I don’t think it was anything new.”
Larson was on standby, ready to seize any opportunity should Blaney make a mistake. The championship was promised to the highest-finishing driver among Blaney, Larson, Byron, and Christopher Bell, but Bell’s early brake rotor failure led to his last-place finish and elimination.
“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,” Larson speculated. “He was mad at (Truex) at the end of the second stage, he ran into the back of him in a caution. He ran into the back of Ross. He earned it. He worked really hard.”
Blaney’s victory marked him as the first Ohio-born driver to win the Cup title and he followed in the footsteps of teammate Joey Logano, who won for Penske a year ago. It was a remarkable ending for Ford Performance, which had a challenging season but rallied late with Blaney, who won two of the final six playoff races.
The title was Penske’s fourth in the Cup Series, but the first time “The Captain” had won consecutive Cups. His IndyCar program won back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017 with Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden, and Penske boasts 44 total championships across motorsports.
Blaney acknowledged the importance of winning for Penske, the 86-year-old who was recently hospitalized with shingles and missed Blaney’s win at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday. Penske was in Phoenix and watched the race from a suite. He later made his way to the frontstretch to congratulate his 29-year-old driver.
“I thought the captain had to stay cool. He’s the coolest guy on the ship,” Penske said of watching the race with a headset he used frequently to calm Blaney over the radio. “I would say I probably was cool, but inside I was turning over. I told him before the race, ‘Win, lose or draw, you’re a champion.’”
Blaney admitted he deliberately ran into Chastain, using an expletive to express his frustration.
“Yes I hit him on purpose. He blocked me on purpose 10 times,” Blaney said. “So yeah I hit him on purpose. He backed me up to the other championship guy (Larson) and I gotta go.”
Team Penske has won three Cup titles in the past six seasons, and Blaney has driven for Penske since 2013, when he was 19 years old. He said it was a goal this entire week to add consecutive NASCAR titles to Penske’s legacy.
“It was definitely on my mind to give him consecutive titles, I mean, because he’s done everything in motorsports and we had a chance to go back-to-back on the Cup side with him,” Blaney said. “I mean, we couldn’t pass up that opportunity. So everyone worked really hard to make it happen and I’m so proud of the effort.”
Blaney is the son of former Cup driver Dave Blaney, who made 473 Cup starts over 17 seasons. Dave Blaney was a World of Outlaws champion, his brother, Dale, was a sprint car champion, and their father, Lou, was credited with multiple Midwest titles.
“Obviously I come from a family of racers, my grandfather, dad and uncle,” Blaney said. “Dad is obviously who I grew up watching and admiring, wanted to be like. To be able to do what he did, ’cause as a kid I just wanted to do what dad did, so 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.” Chastain won the race in a Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing and is the first driver to win the season finale while not racing for the championship since Denny Hamlin in 2013, one year before this current elimination format began.
Larson and Byron finished third and fourth for Hendrick Motorsports, while Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t finish and was scored 36th. They were the only four drivers eligible for the title Sunday.
Kevin Harvick finished seventh in the final race of his Cup career.
Even after his clash with Chastain, there was still a final round of pit stops to come when a Kyle Busch spin brought out the final caution of the race with 37 laps remaining. Blaney was second when he headed to pit road but it was Larson and the No. 5 Hendrick team that had the fastest pit stop.
“Let’s do this guys,” Larson told his crew as he headed in for the stop.
Larson was the first of the title contenders off pit road, while Blaney lost four spots and was sixth on the last restart. Blaney made up some quick ground and eventually caught Larson, but had to race door-to-door for several laps against the 2021 champion before finally clearing him with 20 laps remaining.
“Blaney had to work for it. He really had to work for it,” Larson said. “And guys around him that were not in the final four racing him really hard. He definitely deserved it and earned it.”
Larson was the only previous champion in the final four, while Blaney, Bell and Byron were racing for their first title.