Ryan Blaney won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship, but it didn't come easy for the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. Blaney found himself in a tough duel with Trackhouse Racing's Ross Chastain.
Chastain wasn't one of the Championship 4 drivers at Phoenix, but he was determined to end the season on a high note with a win. Rather than being a nice guy and moving out of the way for Blaney or any of the other championship drivers, Chastain raced them hard.
The Chastain-Blaney battle produced plenty of drama late in the race, as the two started getting a little physical with their race cars and Blaney quickly became frustrated with Chastain.
Battling right to the very end ??
Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain made contact late in the race at Phoenix Raceway, where Blaney would go on to seal the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship with a P2 finish.
Was Blaney too aggressive with the title on the line? pic.twitter.com/VXwhnqqGCy
— Motorsport.com (@Motorsport) November 6, 2023
His agitation with Chastain got to a point that Blaney nearly cost himself the title, as he gave the No. 1 a bump late in the race that allowed the rest of the field to close the gap.
Blaney certainly didn't need to put himself in that position. Chastain is not a driver to mess with, and his history with other drivers is quite long.
The Chastain drama only seemed to push Blaney to try to overdo things and almost throw it all away because he clearly had the best of the other championship drivers.
Though he hoisted the championship trophy at the race's end, he has to thank his crew chief, Jonathan Hassler, for pushing the right buttons to help him calm down.
He ultimately out-dueled arguably the sport's best driver, Kyle Larson, for the championship, but it could've all gone up in smoke.
Blaney has plenty to be happy about after winning the crown. But he was asked in his press conference about his incident with Chastain, and it was clearly still on his mind.
"The fact that Ross said I raced him hard — the dude blocked three lanes ...," Blaney said. "He blocked me on purpose 10 times so yeah I hit him on purpose."
It looks as if we have a new rivalry in the Cup Series. 2024 should be interesting for Blaney and Chastain.
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