By Adam Carabine & Crystal Clay
Last year, in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship race, Blaney finished in the runner up position, though he had already been eliminated from contention for the big prize. This year, Blaney repeated his second place finish and while he certainly would have loved to have the race win, this year P2 came with a fresh side of Championship.
Championship Four hopeful Christopher Bell had the worst day of the eligible drivers. On lap 108, one of his brake rotors exploded, sending him into the wall and ending his race prematurely. Just laps earlier, he had been complaining about the brake heat over the radio, but there was nothing he could do.
William Byron started on the pole, and looked unstoppable early on. Despite a total of 95 laps led, he wound up finishing third in the Championship standings.
In the final 100 laps or so, Kyle Larson proved to be the biggest obstacle for Blaney’s championship charge. At this point, Ross Chastain had made his way to the lead and had no intention of giving any leeway to the Championship Four.
“I knew that if I could hold him off [...] I wasn’t going to run him up or pinch him up. I know he was mad and I don’t care. I do not care, I did not care then, I do not care now. I’m here to race him, I’m not going to wreck him,” said Chastain.
And he’s not wrong, Blaney was mad.
At one point Blaney came right up and rammed into the back of Chastain. While it didn’t cause Chastain to lose the lead, it sent a message. “He gets angry, that’s okay. I checked the [rear-view] camera, he was aaaaangry,” Chastain added.
From Blaney’s perspective, he was less concerned with beating Ross, than worried that the holdup was allowing Larson (who was also vying for the championship) to catch up.
In the end, Chastain prevailed for the race win, but Blaney held on to second place. Under NASCAR’s Playoff format, Blaney only needed to have the best finish of the Championship Four drivers, meaning his P2 was enough to get him his first career NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Blaney’s second-place finish was his third in a row at Phoenix.
When asked whether that bothered him, “I don’t give a SHIT about running second three times. Not now. Don’t care” he quickly responded.
And with that, Ryan Blaney rode off into the Arizona sunset, a newly crowned NASCAR Champion.