Ryan Blaney appreciates having a visual reminder of his NASCAR Cup Series championship accomplishment every time he prepares for a race this season.
“That meant a lot; it did mean a ton,” Blaney said of his new firesuit featuring the champion patch. “It was one of those things that was like a month removed from all those celebrations, and it’s in the new year — you get the trophy, you get the Goodyear car, you get the ring, and then once the banquet is done that stuff is over. You’ve got all of that stuff, but then it’s a nice little refresher for the new year when you pull out the firesuit from the bag and you see the ‘champion’ logo beneath the NASCAR logo. That part was nice.
“You look at that every morning, at least I will on race day. You look at it, and it’s one of those little things you notice. It’s kind of a nice little reminder.”
It’s a detail that began appearing on a driver’s firesuit around the 2010s and one that has become something the reigning series champion has looked forward to seeing for the first time. If a driver wins additional championships, the patch is updated to reflect 2X champion, 3X champion and so on.
Blaney wore it for the first time in competition at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, where he finished on the podium after starting last.
The third driver to win a Cup Series championship with Roger Penske, the triumph felt like a long time coming for Blaney. As a driver just beginning his NASCAR national series career in 2012, Blaney watched teammate Brad Keselowski celebrate a championship. Joey Logano has since won two championships (2018, 2022).
“I was just getting to the organization when Brad won his in ’12, and it’s nice to walk around,” Blaney said. “You’re like, ‘Man, I feel like I’ve done something really nice for the whole company and organization, for Roger Penske and everyone working there.’ I don’t want to say you feel validated in being there because everyone always believes in you, but it’s just like a personal confidence booster.
“It’s nice to feel part of that champion group that’s won for (Roger), so it personally makes you feel a little bit better and a little bit more certified in being there and racing for the cause each week.”
The season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 starts Blaney’s title defense. Blaney has never won the sport’s biggest race and would love nothing more than to be the fourth driver to accomplish as much for Penske.
“You’ve got to win the 500,” Blaney said of the attitude at Team Penske. “You need to have a shot at winning the 500. That’s what’s next. Try to just keep getting milestones for Roger Penske and try to win historic races and bring more championships and stuff like that. That’s just the main goal.
“Them winning the (Rolex) 24 was great, but now it’s like we have to do it again in Daytona here in a couple of weeks. We’re usually fairly decent at trying to continue to stack on big wins from the other race teams that he has, so that’s top of the list right now.”