Ryan Blaney in action at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race in Phoenix
Ryan Blaney, making his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut, won the season finale at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, taking the lead on lap 104 and staying out front over the final 21 laps.
Ryan, the 17-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, was making only the third K&N Pro Series start of his career. His other two starts came in the K&N Pro Series East. He started out in 4th and dropped all the way to 11th place in the Casino Arizona 125 before his crew made adjustments at the midway break. Ryan took the lead for the first time in the race on lap 81 and held it for 21 laps. He battled with Alex Bowman over the last 55 laps of the race, but was able to stay out front for most of it. "It didn't start off looking so well, but it ended up good," Ryan said after the race.
Dave Blaney said he had no doubt his son was going to be a challenger for the win at Phoenix. "It's fun, no doubt," Dave commented. "I thought he was going to run good the whole time we were here. Like Ryan said, it didn't start out well, but it really got coming after the break. I was just going to be happy to see him get up there and race for it. It ended up where he was a good bit better than the rest of them."
Ryan Blaney said he started out the race with a tight car. Pole winner Greg Pursley and Daniel Suarez swapped the lead over the first 58 laps of the race. Ryan, meanwhile, dropped back in the field. "It got worse and worse that first segment," Ryan mentioned. "We dropped back to 11th before the break. (Crew chief) Trent Owens made great changes to free us up and help us turn a whole bunch through the center and that put us over the edge to beat the other cars there at the end. So, it was a great night."
Bowman, who was making his second career West Series start, took over the lead from Pursley on lap 59 and held it for 21 laps. Blaney moved past Bowman on lap 81. Bowman regained the lead briefly on lap 104, but could only hold it for one lap. Bowman ended up in 2nd place. "It's definitely not as successful as we would like for it to be," said Bowman, the 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the K&N Pro Series East. "Overall, everybody did a good job. It was definitely a hard fought race. We probably over adjusted just a little bit there at the break."
Ryan Blaney and team celebrating their victory in Phoenix
Chase Elliott, the 15-year-old son of Bill Elliott, was making his K&N West Series debut and finished in 3rd place. "For us to come out here, first race at this track and first race in the West, that was fantastic," Elliott said. "The biggest thing I look forward to from tonight is momentum for next year. We have a lot of good things going on at the shop back in Dawsonville (Georgia). We're really looking forward to next year. This is a heck of a way to end the season. Obviously, two spots better would have made it even better, but we'll take it and move on."
Pursley, the 2011 K&N Pro Series West Champion, led the most laps in the race with 51. But he crashed on lap 81 hitting the turn 4 wall and finished in 23rd place. "We got up there to race for the lead and I think the 25 car got in there a little deep, pushed up, got loose and got into us, got us into the wall," Pursley said. "I hated to go out like that. I thought we had a car to win there, but stuff happens. Can't complain about the season. We're the champion. Really can't complain."
Pursley won six races en route to his first K&N Pro Series West Championship. He had the title wrapped up last month at All American Speedway in Roseville. "Finally had some luck," Pursley said. "Last year, everything that could have went wrong, went wrong. Had no luck whatsoever. This year, it turned around. We just went on a winning streak there for a while. The guys have done a great job at the shop, giving me a great car every week, in and out."
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