“Joey [Logano] Wasn’t Lighting the World on Fire”- Dale Earnhardt Jr Unmasks Reality Behind Ryan Blaney Favoritism

Published 11/14/2023, 8:51 AM EST

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Team Penske has firmly held the reins of the Championship trophy for two consecutive years. In 2022, Joey Logano etched his name on the coveted prize, and this year, his teammate Ryan Blaney followed suit, clinching the trophy for himself. The streak of success may suggest that it might be time for racing powerhouses like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing to glean some insights on next-gen cars from Roger Penske’s skilled drivers.

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Recently, the performance of Penske drivers with next-gen cars sparked an intriguing discussion between Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kenny Wallace. The conversation centered around Junior’s decision to favor Ryan Blaney over Joey Logano, the 2022 champion. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr reflects on Joey Logano’s 2023 season

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Joey Logano, the seasoned racer, quickly secured a playoff position early in the season. He kicked off his title defense with a bang, dominating the race weekend in Atlanta, not only snagging the pole but also clinching the P1 finish. The victory sparked a wave of optimism among Team Penske supporters. However, the rest of the regular season didn’t quite mirror this high. Throughout the season, Logano tantalizingly neared victory, notably with P2 finishes at Daytona and Martinsville in the regular season and back-to-back P3s at Gateway and Sonoma. 

The reigning champion wrapped up the season with his sole win, alongside 17 top-10s and 11 top-5s. Despite these close calls, his overall performance didn’t entirely impress Dale Earnhardt Jr, who contrasted Logano’s playoff performance, pointing out its disparity with his regular season.

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Watch This Story: Next Gen Cars Stir Debate in NASCAR

Junior remarked, “There was part of me that saw a very similar sort of season that Joey had the year before. Joey wasn’t lighting the world on fire. When we went to Phoenix and we’re interviewing the final four drivers, the championship four of Phoenix. Everybody was thinking that Joey wasn’t in the mix, right? He wasn’t really a threat to win that championship, but when they got done, he was the champion and won the race. And I thought to myself, ‘Man, it’s…’ Blaney can get to Phoenix. Why can’t he win it? He probably can win it. Phoenix is a good track for him. It’s great for Penske.”

Perhaps it was time for another driver to step into the spotlight. Moreover, some responsibility falls on Logano’s team, as they provided him with a car that didn’t quite match his needs, a fact he himself admitted in a post-race interview.

And while it may seem superficial, it wasn’t just racing luminary Dale Earnhardt Jr who drew parallels between Ryan Blaney’s triumph and Joey Logano’s journey; even the 2023 champion himself couldn’t resist making the comparison.

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Ryan Blaney talks about his championship win and draws parallels to Joey Logano’s 2022 victory

In a narrative that echoes the tale of his teammate, Ryan Blaney, the man behind the wheel of the #12 Ford, carved his path to glory in a manner reminiscent of Joey Logano’s previous triumph. Blaney’s journey to the NASCAR championship was far from a straight shot. After clinching the Coca-Cola 600 during the regular season, he entered the playoff round seeded 12th. His track record, marred by an inconsistent summer, hardly positioned him as a title favorite as the playoffs loomed.

Yet, the 2023 champion managed to turn the tide. Overcoming his summer struggles, Blaney racked up two crucial playoff victories, catapulting himself into the championship contention. His path to victory mirrored the approach Logano took last season, a fact Blaney acknowledged in a candid conversation with Fox Sports.

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Blaney shared, “Yeah. Joey’s championship year last year was a lot like ours of having an OK regular season — better than average, but then really showing up in the playoffs. I had faith in our group to get better. You never lose faith in your group of getting better. But Joey and that group showed last year they were able to do that, find speed at the right time. And we were able to do it again this year.”

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

888Articles

One take at a time

Controversies, gossip, and breakneck speeds? Count me in! While F1 has its charm, NASCAR helps me relive those "Roadrash" gaming days. My favorite among the drivers has to be Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing pilot is not only likable but also a complete beast when he is on track, more specifically, road courses.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath

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