The internet is an inconsistent platform that often makes no sense from one day to the next.
NASCAR’s tiny little corner of the Information Superhighway is no different.
You can blame the All-Mighty Algorithm or our own need for a new shiny object to obsess over for 15 minutes each day.
Or you can blame me and Kyle Petty.
At least this week.
On Monday (March 6), just under 24 hours after the conclusion of a very lackluster NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I decided to use 45 minutes during a day off from work to go for a walk through my neighborhood in Little Rock, Arkansas.
During this walk, I decided to listen to the latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, hosted by my former colleague, Nate Ryan.
Petty was this week’s guest.
In the middle of the episode, Petty made an observation about Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, comparing his career so far to Kasey Kahne‘s.
In the moment, I didn’t even register what led to Petty’s comment, only that I knew I hadn’t heard it before and it made me go “hmmmm.”
So I stopped in the middle of my walk, opened Twitter and fired this off.
Booooy, did NASCAR Twitter have thoughts.
Enough to warrant 288 replies and 187 quote tweets as of this writing. And for a brief time Tuesday, it was the top item on NASCAR Reddit.
One thing is clear.
You guys have really strong feelings about either Blaney, Kahne or Petty.
Or, like me, you really didn’t want to spend a week talking about the Las Vegas race or Chase Elliott‘s inevitable playoff waiver.
Either way, Petty saved us from a very tedious week.
Here are his full comments.
The way Petty delivered his take made it seem as if he’d been ruminating on it for a while and was finally given a window to release it into the wild.
The way many responded made it feel like they’d been waiting for someone else to finally say what they’d been thinking.
Now, the purpose of this column isn’t to get into the weeds of the argument itself.
I don’t want to recite multiple ‘graphs of stats.
I care more about the delightfully bizarre fact that the debate is even happening in the first place.
Kahne’s NASCAR career unfortunately ended in the middle of 2018 due to health reasons. He left with 18 career wins — including victories in three Coca-Cola 600s and one Brickyard 400 — but only two top-10 finishes in points in 14 full-time seasons.
That’s a stark stat for someone who drove a Hendrick Motorsports car for six of those years.
Then there’s Blaney.
At the age of 29, he’s been with Team Penske/Wood Brothers Racing for the entirety of his NASCAR Cup career: 273 starts across 10 seasons, eight of them full-time.
While he doesn’t have Kahne’s crown jewel wins yet, he’s finished in the top 10 in points in five of his eight full-time seasons.
That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Even then, it’s hard to ignore that aside from his first Cup win — when he held off Kyle Busch and then Kevin Harvick for 10 laps at Pocono Raceway in 2017 — all of Blaney’s victories have been the result of dramatic last-lap finishes or late restarts.
But being in position to win is half the battle.
Unlike Kahne, the book on Blaney’s NASCAR career isn’t over.
Last summer, Team Penske announced it had signed Blaney to a “long-term” contract extension.
There’s still plenty of time for Blaney prove Petty and others wrong.
Though, sooner would be better than later.
At the end of this little diversion from the news cycle, outside their obvious driving talents, I’d rather spend time discussing how Blaney and Kahne are not afraid to poke fun at themselves for our entertainment.
For more on Petty’s comments, check out this week’s episode of the Frontstretch Podcast with Bryan Nolen, where Petty just so happens to be the guest. You can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts.
Oh, and before I go.
To those whose responded to Petty’s observation by attempting to dismiss him based on his own racing career: Where are your eight NASCAR Cup Series trophies?
I’ll hang up and listen.
2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com. The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.
You can email him at email@example.com.
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Most of the time, when someone doesn’t live up to their potential, it means that their potential was miscalculated from the start.
Bingo. Blaney is a solid driver, understands his role on the team, and he doesn’t let his mouth get in the way. He brings a bit of personality to the sport, in a good way. Some of these drivers do a lot of talking and forget there are several other players on the team.
Kyle Petty needs apologize to Kasey and Ryan. He raced when owners had one or two cars in a race. Now teams are at least thee cars each. Kasey and Ryan had some of Nascar’s best drivers as teammates during their careers.