After decade-long rise, Ryan Blaney delivers second straight Cup title to Roger Penske Featured

Posted On Monday, 06 November 2023 01:42 Written by
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Blaney hoists the Cup Series championship trophy after beating the competition Sunday at Phoenix to earn his first title at the sport's top level. It was the second year that a Team Penske driver took the title, with Joey Logano doing it in 2022. Blaney hoists the Cup Series championship trophy after beating the competition Sunday at Phoenix to earn his first title at the sport's top level. It was the second year that a Team Penske driver took the title, with Joey Logano doing it in 2022. Photo courtesy of Ford Performance

I remember the first time I had a hint of what was to come from young Ryan Blaney, in the media center at Michigan International Speedway in 2013.

It was back when he was quite young, still a teenager in fact, and I had just watched him finish second in an ARCA race at the track.

He was very fresh in the sport at that point, having competed in some Xfinity and Truck series races as an 18-year-old in 2012.

When Blaney showed up in the media room to take questions, he was agitated, almost pissed off the entire time. Why, you ask? He hadn’t won the race (coincidentally, the race was won by Brennan Poole and Grant Enfinger finished 5th that day.)

Blaney had led much of the day, but gave up the lead late in the race after a green flag pit stop and couldn’t recover to get the lead back..

Blaney answered the questions he was asked, but you could tell he was not happy with how the day turned out.

Some people might have viewed that reaction as having a bad attitude, but I had the opposite reaction. I thought it was a sign that the kid had a bright future. 

Anyone that visibly unhappy with second, instead of putting on a happy face and saying, “we’ll get em next time,” was going to do everything it took to win races, at any level he competed. 

And that’s what Blaney has done. He’s won at every level he competed at, from Cup to Xfinity to Trucks to ARCA (in fact, one of his first career wins on a major stage came as a 17-year-old at Phoenix in 2011).

Broadcaster and former racer Kyle Petty made headlines earlier this season by calling Ryan Blaney out for not coming through in big moments. But after Blaney defeated his three Final Four rivals on Sunday at Phoenix to claim his first Cup title and second straight victory, I would say those concerns have been silenced.

Blaney gave all the credit to his team after coming through as the champ.

“It was somewhat of an up and down year, but you’re gonna have those moments and through the summer we just worked really hard to get back to where we needed to be and set a deadline for the playoffs and we met that deadline. I’m just super proud of the effort by everybody at Team Penske who put in tons and tons of hours of hard work and nobody really got down,” Blaney said. “They just put their heads down and decided to really put in a lot of work and it showed up, especially these playoffs and especially the last five weeks. It’s so cool to have all of their hard work pay off, so they should be proud.”

Blaney is like many of today’s drivers, coming from a full racing pedigree. His father Dave Blaney, his uncle Dale Blaney, and even his grandfather Lou Blaney were all celebrated racers in everything from sprint cars to modifieds to NASCAR.

He had those family members top of mind as he celebrated his title.

“Obviously, I come from a family of racers – my grandfather and dad and uncle,” Blaney said. “Dad is obviously who I grew up watching and admiring and wanted to be like, so to be able to do what he did because 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 and still have my parents around and people that you look up to that are still around it makes it even more special.”

When the sport is in your blood like that, and you have the level of drive Blaney has, you’re likely to succeed if given the right opportunity. Team Penske gave that opportunity to Blaney when he was still a teenager. The relationship has thrived for a decade, and i can see him being the face of Penske’s NASCAR organization for a very long time.

“It’s been amazing. It’s been over 10 years when I walked through the doors of that place. It’s hard to believe. It’s gone by so fast. I was telling everybody all week that having the opportunity to go back-to-back Cup champions for Mr. Penske hasn’t been done,” Blaney said. “He hasn’t done that and it’s not very often you get to do something in motorsports that RP hasn’t done because he’s done everything and accomplished everything, so to be able to be a part of this and bring him another championship and be a driver that’s brought him a championship is very special, so it’s been a fun decade and hopefully another fun decade ahead.”

The kid I saw stewing over a 2nd-place ARCA run in 2013 matured into the Cup champion we saw crowned today, and his drive to succeed is as strong today as it was then.

Whether he remains a one-time Cup champion his whole career, or stacks up a handful of them, one thing can’t be denied: Blaney is a hell of a racer whose credentials and will to win can not be denied.


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Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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