AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Ryan Blaney raced to his first career NASCAR championship on Sunday by banging his way past contender Kyle Larson in the closing laps at Phoenix Raceway to give Team Penske back-to-back Cup titles.
The third generation racer is the first Ohio-born driver to win the Cup title and followed teammate Joey Logano, who won for Roger Penske a year ago. It was an amazing finish for Ford Performance, which struggled most of the season but came on late with Blaney, who won two of the final six playoff races.
The title was the fourth in the Cup Series for Penske, but first time "The Captain" has consecutive Cups. His IndyCar program won back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017 with Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden.
"What a year," a tearful Blaney said after finishing second to Ross Chastain. "Congrats, RP. Thanks for giving me a shot."
He then noted how important it was to win for Penske; the 86-year-old was recently hospitalized with shingles and missed Blaney's win at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday. Penske was in Phoenix and calmly watched the race from a suite, but made his way to the frontstretch to congratulate his 29-year-old driver.
"It was definitely on my mind to give him consecutive titles, I mean, because he's done everything in motorsports and we had a chance to go back-to-back on the Cup side with him," Blaney said. "I mean, we couldn't pass up that opportunity. So everyone worked really hard to make it happen and I'm so proud of the effort."
Blaney is the son of former Cup driver Dave Blaney, who made 473 Cup starts over 17 seasons. Dave Blaney was a World of Outlaws champion, his brother, Dale, was a sprint car champion, and their father, Lou, was credited with multiple Midwest titles.
Chastain won the race in a Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing and is the first driver to win the season finale while not racing for the championship since Denny Hamlin in 2013, one year before this current elimination format began.
Larson and William Byron finished third and fourth for Hendrick Motorsports, while Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing finished last in the 36-car field with a broken brake rotor. They were the only four drivers eligible for the title Sunday and the championship was guaranteed to the highest finisher of the group.
Kevin Harvick finished seventh in the final race of his Cup career.