Blaney Best in Phoenix K&N Race

Ryan Blaney

Blaney celebrates in Victory Lane. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney earned his first NASCAR victory in style Saturday at Phoenix International 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.) International 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. The Casino Arizona 125 pole winner led two times Saturday night before tangling with Bowman on Lap 81, which resulted in a 23rd-place finish.

The race featured six lead changes among four drivers and was slowed by caution nine times.

Pursley and the rest of the touring series champions will be honored as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Dec. 10 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.

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