Penske Racing’s Ryan Blaney scored his first NASCAR Cup Series championship in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday. The third generation driver from Ohio needed to finish ahead of Kyle Larson, polesitter William Byron and Christopher Bell to win the title. Blaney locked himself into the final four with a decisive win at Martinsville the week before, leading 145 laps.
It was no easy feat for Blaney, who battled — to put it mildly — with race winner Ross Chastain in the final stage of the race. Blaney finished second, ahead of Larson, a four-time winner over the 2023 campaign, who finished third. Six-time winner Byron took fourth place. Bell, who won twice during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, was eliminated on lap 109 with brake failure.
Blaney’s initial Cup championship of his career was the second consecutive title for team owner Roger Penske as fellow Penske Racing driver Joey Logano clinched the crown in 2022. Penske Racing owns a total of four Cup championships.
“What a year,” said Blaney. “Thanks (Roger Penske). Thanks for giving me a shot. Unbelievable year, unbelievable playoffs for us. Having my family here, winning my first Cup title, I got emotional in the car. I’m not a very emotional guy.”
As for his frustration with race winner Chastain, Blaney explained, “Yes, I hit him on purpose. The dude blocked three lanes in the corner of every lap. He’s backing me up to (Larson). I have to go. He’s backing me up to Larson to where I’m going to be in trouble.”
“It’s nothing other than wanting to win and hold track position,” Chastain explained. “He (Blaney) could run second and win the championship. He ultimately did it.”
The Phoenix finale also marked the final Cup Series race of Kevin Harvick’s colorful career. Harvick has won three times at WWTR – in 2010 in the Craftsman Truck Series 200, and 2000 and 2001 in the Xfinity Series. The 2014 Cup Series champion concluded his career with 60 victories and finished seventh in his final race.
Harvick said, “For me, it’s been a great ride. I don’t have anything to complain about. The fans have been great, wishing us well to do the best that we can on the race track. It’s been an up-and-down year, but we’ve had some good runs, and we were at least competitive. We didn’t run around in the back.”