AVONDALE, Ariz. – With a second-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series’ season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday (Nov. 5), Ryan Blaney finished ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron to score the first Cup championship of his career and back-to-back titles for Ford and Team Penske.
Blaney poured it on in the final four races of the season, as he finished sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, second at Homestead-Miami Speedway, first at Martinsville Speedway and second at Phoenix en route to winning it all.
Penske teammates Joey Logano and Austin Cindric walked over to the No. 12 team’s pit box to provide their congratulations, as did Wood Brothers Racing driver Harrison Burton, whose team shares a technical alliance with Penske in the Cup Series.
All three had nothing but praise for Blaney after the biggest triumph of his NASCAR career.
“Ryan deserves it, man,” Logano said. “He’s done a tremendous job this year battling through the early part of the season and even the early part of the playoffs, and keeping himself alive to where he had a ton of speed here at the end of the year.
“He’s a tremendous driver. I mean, he’s so freaking fast and he’s figured out how to finish races and that’s why he won. We all knew he had the speed to do it. He just had to learn how to finish races and I believe he figured it out.”
“Yeah, super happy for everyone on the No. 12 car,” Cindric said. “To have Roger Penske and the whole bunch here as well as John Menard, Ryan has worked really hard to get to this point, to be a leader on this team, and he stepped up when it counts. And yeah, I don’t think there’s a team more deserving in the playoffs with the way things have panned out.”
Cindric spoke about the progression he has seen in Blaney as a driver during their time as teammates.
“I think Ryan’s always been his own person, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like Ryan Blaney on and off the racetrack,” Cindric said. “I think he’s found a way to be himself and deliver results, and I think that’s what anyone has to do to be successful in life and racing and whatever you want to call it.”
“Yeah, Ryan’s just a good guy,” Burton said. “So, it’s really easy even if we weren’t, like, alliance members; it’d be easy to be happy for him. And yeah, getting to know that group, that whole No. 12 team, they’re pretty awesome people. So, really happy for them.”
Like Cindric, Burton also praised Blaney for the work that he’s put in to make it where he is today.
“It’s crazy how he seems so young, he’s been at it for nine years and with how hard it is to win a championship, he seems very young to do it,” Burton said. “But he’s put a lot of work in for a long time to get to this point, so, happy for him for sure.”
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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