AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Blaney earned his first NASCAR victory in style Saturday at Phoenix Int’l Raceway with a triumph in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut in the Casino Arizona 125.
Blaney, the 17-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, took the lead for the third and final time on Lap 104 and cruised to victory following a spirited battle with Alex Bowman that saw the pair swap the lead five times through the race’s final 55 laps. In the end, Blaney cruised to the victory by more than two seconds in the season finale for the series.
“Right at the start of the race we were tight,” Blaney said of the event, which featured a midway break. “It got worse and worse that first segment. 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. It didn’t start off looking so well, but it ended up good.”
From High Point, N.C., Blaney had just two starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series prior to Saturday, both in the East division. He registered top 10s in those outings at Richmond (Va.) Int’l Raceway and Iowa Speedway in Newton.
Bowman settled for second after also leading the race on three different occasions. Chase Elliott, Eric Holmes and Derek Thorn brought home the top five.
For Bowman, a native of Tucson, Ariz., the Casino Arizona 125 was a homecoming after competing full-time in the K&N Pro Series East in 2011, where he won Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. The 18-year-old had one other West start this year, a ninth-place finish at Colorado National Speedway.
“It’s definitely not as successful as we would like for it to be,” Bowman said. “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.”
Elliott, who was also making his series debut, was pleased to finish the season on a strong note.
“For us to come out here, first race at this track and first race in the West, that was fantastic,” said the 15-year-old. “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 (Ga.). 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.”
Daniel Suarez, Chad Boat, Brandon Davis, Johnny Borneman and David Mayhew rounded out the top 10 finishers in the K&N Pro Series West season finale.
After clinching the 2011 K&N Pro Series West title with one race to go, Greg Pursley celebrated with the championship trophy at Phoenix.
Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Eric Holmes, Derek Thorn, Daniel Suarez, Chad Boat, Brandon Davis, Johnny Borneman, David Mayhew, D.J. Kennington, Carlos Iaconelli, Todd Souza, Jessica Brunelli, Ben Kennedy, Ryan Philpott, Moses Smith, Carlos Vieira, Robbie Brand, Carl Harr, Brian Wong, John Wood, Greg Pursley, Dylan Presnell, Luis Martinez, Jr., Brennan Newberry, Spencer Gallagher, Greg Rayl, Brady Flaherty, Daryl Harr, Michael Self, Dylan Kwasniewski, Thompson, Justin Philpott, Jason Fraser, Dylan Lupton, Jonathon Gomez, Travis Milburn, Cameron Hayley.