Young Ryan Blaney, the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor Dave Blaney, pulled away at the end of the Casino Arizona 125 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday night to win his first race.
The 17-year old wasn’t the only NASCAR offspring to enjoy a good race after the sun set behind the beautiful Estrella Mountains in Avondale, Ariz. Chase Elliott, the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, came in third even though he never threatened the race lead.
Pole sitter Greg Pursley, already crowned the series champion, spent plenty of time in the lead. Even though he didn’t have to race at PIR to retain his title, his two straight wins at the track, including last February’s victory in the 3 Amigo’s Organic Blanco 100, meant there was no way his Jet Black Aviation/Mach One Air Charters team would think of staying away.
Pursley dominated most of the first half of the race, finding competition for the lead only from Tucson’s Alex Bowman in the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital Chevrolet.
After a violent four-car wreck brought out a red flag on lap 78, Bowman on the point and Pursley restarted side by side on lap 80. They took off out of Turn 2 on a thrilling drag race through PIR’s new backstretch dog-leg and stayed even as they headed toward Turn 3. It was there where Pursley on the outside was touched on his front quarter-panel and propelled on a path that sent his car scraping into the wall.
The accident opened the door for Blaney to slip into his first lead of the night. The damage to Pursley’s car meant it had become a two-car race for the checkered flag between Bowman and Blaney. It also meant Pursley would have to be content with receiving the champion’s trophy from NASCAR president Mike Helton afterward.
Bowman grabbed the lead on the next restart on lap 84, and he exchanged the lead with Blaney three more times. But when Blaney retook the front on lap 104 he was able to stretch out the margin by more than two seconds over the last 21 laps.
After hoisting the handsome cactus-designed trophy for the Casino Arizona 125 in Gatorade Victory Lane, Blaney credited his crew, saying they “made some amazing adjustments after the first half of the race when we were really, really tight.”
Meanwhile, title-holder Pursley happily honored K&N for its support of the series, adding, “I really hope we can come back and defend our championship next year.”