Ryan Blaney watched his father compete for years at NASCAR’s highest level, dreaming of one day following in his footsteps and, more impressively, becoming a Cup Series champion. That dream became a reality in the November 5 Championship 4 race at Phoenix, with the Team Penske driver outlasting three title-contending competitors to claim his first Bill France Cup.
Amid the celebration, he took a shot at racing great Kyle Petty, who previously had criticized Blaney, 29, for what he called unfulfilled potential.
“I know Kyle Petty says that I never do anything, but hopefully, I proved him wrong tonight,” Blaney told Claire B. Lang, a SiriusXM NASCAR Radio reporter.
“You feel like just saying that, right?” Lang asked.
“I’ve been bottling it up for a while,” the driver admitted with a big laugh.
Kyle Petty Criticizes Ryan Blaney for Failing to Live Up to His Potential
In March, Petty offered an unexpectedly harsh critique of Blaney’s lackluster start to the 2023 season and, more surprisingly, his overall career.
“I look at the Fords, and I look at Penske, and I look at Joey and Ryan Blaney,” Petty, who appears as a guest analyst on the “NASCAR on NBC” podcast, told host Nate Ryan. “For me — I’m going, to be honest, man — Ryan Blaney is the new Kasey Kahne. Potential unfulfilled. Everybody wants to talk about what he can do, but he never does anything for whatever reason. For whatever reason, he just never gets past that hump.”
In 2021, Blaney had what many considered his breakout year, recording his first multi-win season, scoring victories at Atlanta, Michigan and the summer race at Daytona. Expectations were understandably high heading into 2022, the first year in the Next Gen car.
The Penske pilot started the season strong, registering four top-5s in the first 10 races but went winless during that same stretch. That would become an unfortunate trend throughout the year — solid runs with great finishes but no hardware to show for it. He made the playoffs on points and finished eighth in the season-ending points standings.
The 2023 campaign opened with an eighth-place finish at the Daytona 500, followed by a 26th at Fontana and a 13th at Las Vegas.
Ryan Blaney Flies Over Petty’s ‘Hump’
Petty made his comments a day after the third race of the 2023 season, in Vegas. We can now confirm the driver heard those critical remarks. The following week, Blaney finished runner-up behind William Byron at Phoenix, an interesting glimpse into the future.
The final season stats for the No. 12 include 18 top 10s, eight inside the top 5, and, three wins, including the Coca-Cola 600 — a crown jewel — and two clutch victories in the postseason. He advanced to his first-ever final four appearance and finished it off by impressively capturing his first Cup Series title, writing his name in the history books and putting himself in elite company.
It’s safe to say Blaney has, without a question, gotten over the hump.
Following the race, the 29-year-old driver jubilantly celebrated his championship on stage with the team, including owner Roger Penske, and his family, including his father, Dave, who set him on the racing path so many years ago.
Lang asked him how long he had dreamed of the moment.
“Ever since I was a little kid,” Blaney said. “I grew up admiring the Jimmies (Johnson), Tonys (Stewart), and Jeff Gordons of the sport. All of those guys are champions, right?
As a kid you just want to be like those guys. It was super cool to finally see it come full circle and work so hard,” he said. “It takes a lot to be good in this sport.”