“It Could Continue”- Kyle Larson Namedrops Ryan Blaney as Championship Favorite With Shocking Joey Logano Revelation


After a season’s worth of breathless waiting, the championship race is right around the corner. Hendrick Motorsports‘ versatile star Kyle Larson has been a fan favorite to recreate his 2021 victory run throughout the playoff season. But Ryan Blaney unexpectedly emerged as Larson‘s fiercest competitor in the weeks leading up to the final race.
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Acknowledging the Team Penske driver’s prowess at the Phoenix Raceway, the #5 driver revealed the undisputed advantage that could tilt the scales in the #12 driver’s favor.
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Kyle Larson claims Ryan Blaney should have won the Next Gen race last year
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Since the introduction of the winner-take-all Championship 4 race in 2014, the last race of a NASCAR season has suddenly gained hair-raising stakes. Theoretically, the highest-finishing contender out of the four championship candidates would be awarded the season’s title. Surprisingly, no complicated calculations have been necessary in the past nine years, with one of the title contenders doubling down as race winners in the Cup Series. However, that impeccable record nearly got broken last year when Joey Logano became the 2022 champion.
Similar to Ryan Blaney this year, Team Penske’s #22 driver, Joey Logano, was not considered a serious threat until he won a Round of 8 race to qualify in the pole position at the Phoenix Raceway last season. However, it was the #12 driver that showcased the most promising pace at the tri-oval. Although Blaney was eliminated from the playoffs in the previous round, he led 109 laps to finish second behind his race and season-winning Team Penske teammate. Prior to the same race this season, Kyle Larson was asked whether that tradition would continue this year as well.
In the interview with Fronstretch, the HMS driver responded, “I think it could continue for sure. I mean, stats say it should.” At the same time, Larson admitted the Next Gen cars provided the most room for a driver outside the final 4 to emerge victorious. Despite their elimination, veteran drivers like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin have excellent track records in Phoenix and could easily snatch the checkered flag away from the Championship 4 drivers. In fact, Ryan Blaney almost defeated the eight-year-old tradition last season itself.
Last year was the first Next Gen season and the #5 driver felt Blaney would have won the race if not for his impressive commitment toward his team. Larson explained, “In the Next Gen era I think it’s a little bit more open to win, like Blaney could have won, should have won last year probably, but he did a good job of protecting his teammate. From what I remember the other years with the previous cars, the best car wins the race and that guy’s a champion. But the Next Gen stuff, there’s so much parity within the cars and teams that more people have a shot to win on Sunday.”
Watch this story: Larson Vs Blaney: The Unexpected Showdown
Furthermore, one of the 75 greatest drivers in NASCAR history recently agreed with Kyle Larson’s assessment of the Team Penske driver.
Jeff Burton lends his weight to Ryan Blaney’s Phoenix Supremacy
With 21 Cup and 27 Xfinity wins, former racer and NBC analyst Jeff Burton commended Team Penske’s propensity to shift the momentum in their favor toward the end of the season for the second year in a row. But Burton wondered whether it was the same driver who pushed himself again this year after missing his shot last year. Ryan Blaney won on the short track oval at Martinsville this season to qualify for the Championship 4. Last year, the #12 driver came in third on the same track and had to settle for assisting Joey Logano with his second championship title.
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After starting second and finishing second in Stage 1, Blaney took over the lead and won the second stage. It was evident the #12 driver had the best car, even though he finished 0.301 seconds behind the #22 driver. Many wondered if the outcome would have been different had Logano not been competing for the trophy. Reiterating that sentiment, Jeff Burton hailed Blaney’s championship legitimacy. In a conversation on Motorsports on NBC, Burton said,
“I can make a favorite that he is because he’s run so well at Phoenix. Also, if you look at what he’s done in the last two weeks, how they put everything together. They honestly, you can make an argument, had the fastest car each of the last two weeks on two drastically different kind of racetracks [Homestead and Martinsville]. They’ve connected the dot somehow. They have a lot of speed. I felt like he had the fastest car last year. His teammate was racing for the championship and I think he was very kind to him.”
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Luckily for Ryan Blaney, the Team Penske driver would fight for his own title this year and reclaim the checkered he forwent last season. Could Kyle Larson overcome the #12 driver’s winning form to take Hendrick Motorsports to the victory lane?


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