NASCAR at Dover: Blaney aims to celebrate again

Ryan Blaney celebrates at Charlotte last week. NASCAR via Getty Images

DOVER — Ryan Blaney has a new trademark celebration after winning a race which has endeared him to NASCAR fans.

It’s a celebration which made its debut last year at Dover International Speedway.

After winning the Xfinity Series race last fall at the Monster Mile, Blaney picked out a young fan and handed him the checkered flag.

That celebration returned this past weekend at the Monster Energy Cup Series race at the roval in Charlotte. Blaney again found a young fan to give the checkered flag as a souvenir.

With NASCAR headed back to Dover this week, Blaney wouldn’t mind doing that again, but this time in the Cup Series.

The original gift went viral last October, a move that surprised Blaney.

“I didn’t plan that out, it was just a spur of the moment type thing,” Blaney said in an interview with the State News. “I remember being a kid too, going to races, and he looked like he was having fun. I got to hang out with him and his mom later in Victory Lane and I hope the two of them will be in the grandstands again to watch the races.”

Blaney’s win last weekend clinched a spot into the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

The 24-year-old is one of eight drivers still fighting for the Cup Series championship as the series enters the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover this Sunday. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 2 p.m.

Blaney has had some success at Dover, he finished eighth in the Cup Series spring race to tie his best-ever finish at the track. Then there’s his victory in the Xfinity Series from last October.

After the race, he remarked on Dover’s classic trophy for the race-winner — a statue of Miles the Monster, saying he has always wanted one of those.

“I thought that was one of the coolest trophies as a kid,” Blaney said. “It’s sitting in my office now at the Penske race shops.”

Blaney said Dover has always been one of the more intense tracks to race at. Whether it was when he would come to watch his father Dave Blaney race in the Cup Series, or when he was first starting out trying to work his way up the NASCAR ranks.

“It’s such a fast mile concrete track and you hear the stories about sinking in your seat and the G-forces,” Blaney said. “The difficulty rises as you go up the series and it can be pretty overwhelming because things go pretty fast.”

The victory at Charlotte was the first of the season for Blaney. He has two career Cup victories since he debuted full-time in 2016.

Combined with his teammate Brad Keselowski, the Penske Racing Team has won four races since the start of September. In a season where it originally looked like one of Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick was the clear favorite for the title, the Penske crew has closed the gap in recent weeks.

“We’ve had a pretty decent year so far and we were close to a few wins,” Blaney said. “It just goes week-to-week. A couple weeks I feel like we can beat them, then other weeks we are way off. Things go up and down in this sport. Hopefully we can close it up. I don’t see a lot of teams saving any of their stuff right now.”

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