Roger Penske and Ryan Blaney ready to start all over again

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 30: Team owner, Roger Penske of Team Penske speaks to the media during the media scrum at Music City Center on November 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Team owner Roger Penske never lost patience with Ryan Blaney, who took the next step in his NASCAR racing journey with a Nov. 5 victory at Phoenix Raceway.

With the hotly contested win, Blaney earned his first NASCAR Cup Series championship and the second straight for team owner Roger Penske.

“We just knew he was a champion,” Penske said Thursday morning during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Music City Center. “His persona—the fans liked him.

“Putting together those last races, those last six, was amazing. The proof in the pudding was racing Kyle Larson—forget everything else—racing Kyle Larson those last 20 or 25 laps and being able to win the championship. Nobody gave it to him.”

Penske noted one particular benchmark in Blaney’s career that proved a portent of things to come. In 2017, driving for Team Penske affiliate Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney held off veteran Kevin Harvick to record his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Nine more victories followed over the next six years, culminating in this year’s three-win season and the Cup championship.

“When you get your first win in the series, internally it gives you confidence, and ‘Hey, I can win at this level, I can be here,’” Blaney said. “That was fantastic. Whenever you get your first one… but then you still have to prove yourself, right?

“You can’t just be one-and-done. You got to continue to try to do better and to continue to grow as a driver and as a person. But, yeah, winning for the Wood Brothers was great. That was a really special one, and it opened up a lot of doors.”

The NASCAR Cup title was the second in a row for Penske, who won the 2022 championship with driver Joey Logano. But the championship was the 12th for Team Penske over the last six years across all series, including NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and V8 Supercars.

“You win one, and you start all over again,” Penske said. “They don’t give you an extra lap ahead of everybody after you win one. Last year, Joey did a great job, and by the way—when you think about it—last year at Phoenix, if you watched it, Ryan was a good wing man. He had a fast car at Phoenix, so we knew that he had the speed.”

For Blaney, it’s gratifying just to be part of the massive Team Penske record.

“To be a small part of that success is great,” Blaney said. “I felt the same way winning my race for the Wood Brothers. Those guys had 98 other wins, but it means a lot that you’re a small part of the journey and the success.

“I was telling people after we won that we did two ‘firsts’ for Roger this year, which was win the Indy (500, with Josef Newgarden) and (Coca-Cola) 600 (Blaney), which is fantastic, and back-to-back (Cup) championships. You don’t get to do that often—do something for Roger that he hasn’t done before—and to be able to bring that to him is definitely very special.”


Greg Engle