Ryan Blaney celebrates after winning the 2023 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
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Ryan Blaney's Quiet Demeanor Doesn't Mean He Sucks

Regardless of his winless streak, Ryan Blaney is still one of the top race-car drivers of his generation -- even if he does it the quiet way.

"Well, it's about damned time."

Honestly, that is very likely a direct quote coming from Ryan Blaney's inner monologue.

His win at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday night restarts the clock. It'd been 50-plus races since he'd last won. That victory came in August 2021 in Daytona, which honestly is a coin-flip track anyway — not usually the track that defines the best car and driver in that particular week. It was beginning to get to a point where pundits and fans wondered aloud whether he'd ever win again. They wondered ... what's wrong with this guy? Is he cursed?

Maybe he's not aggressive enough, they thought (and sometimes said). Maybe it's the entire Team Penske garage that's the problem in 2023, because Joey Logano is way off his championship effort of 2022, and Austin Cindric is way off his rookie pace of last year. Maybe Ryan Blaney just isn't that great?

Usual loudmouth Kyle Petty certainly had a take back in March. But, did he have a point?

"I look at the Fords, and I look at Penske, and I look at Joey (Logano) and Ryan Blaney," Petty began. "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."

Kasey Kahne was another quiet guy with loads of potential. He won 18 career races, the Cup Rookie of the Year honor in 2004, you name it — but didn't live up to the expectations of some.

Ouch. That's a painful — and premature — comparison.

First of all, Ryan Blaney is damned good. You don't finish in the top 10 in the highest level of stock car racing in seven straight seasons without being good. He's also already surpassed his father Dave's career, and it's not even close. His old man had four top-five finishes in nearly 500 starts. The younger Blaney has 65 in 284 career Cup starts.

The young — and the older, for that matter — Blaney has a reputation for being the good guy in the garage, and also the quiet guy. Everybody gets along with Ryan (even Bubba Wallace, one of his best friends). There's no controversy with Ryan like there is with some other drivers. He is probably considered vanilla plain, to be honest. No, he didn't win a race last year. But, then he turned around with no wins and finished in the top eight of the final standings anyway. For the record, his dad never finished above 19th in a season (sorry to keep bringing this up, dad).

Why is it that drivers have to be malcontent assholes for people to think they're good drivers? Hell, it never helped Jimmy Spencer get past being just an average Cup Series driver, even as aggressive and fired up as he was. There are many more examples like that. So one driver isn't willing to upend the entire field to gain an advantage, you know? Why is that a strike against you and your talent? The quiet, unassuming, "good guy" competitors out there can still win championships. Matt Kenseth and the Labonte brothers and Dale Jarrett all proved that. In fact, some NASCAR fans actually prefer a guy like that.

There's a place for them, for sure. Fan favorites don't always have to be wild men out there, even though some fans like to see wreckage. Some just go about their business and get the job done and don't need to ruin others' days to gain an advantage.

I'd say this: Ryan Blaney isn't even 30 yet, has seven top-10 seasons, 19 total wins across NASCAR's three top series, and has more than 100 top-10 finishes in the Cup Series. First of all, isn't it a bit early to be saying his potential is unfulfilled, K.P., just because a guy like Chase Elliott has in comparison had a better start to a young career? Ryan still has plenty of time to blossom and become a potential Hall of Famer. Think Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano, and how things started slowly for them and then they exploded in a good way later in their careers.

That's where Blaney is heading in his career, mark my words. This winless streak was just an early blip on a great career for a quiet guy.

Nothing sums up Ryan Blaney better than coming into the race stadium and handing Monday's checkered flag to a kid and being embraced by the fans. That's his signature, and I'll bet you a lot of kids will get checkered flags from him during his career.

MORE: Ryan Blaney Found Out That William Byron Was Dating His Sister Just Hours Before This Tense Martinsville Race