Ryan Blaney Threatens Chase Elliott and His Stranglehold on NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award This Year
Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are close friends off the track, but they’re fierce competitors on it. This year, Blaney outperformed his pal and won the 2023 Cup Series championship. And the Team Penske driver may not be done.
Elliott, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, has been voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for five consecutive years. Last year, Blaney made a play on that title, trying to dethrone his buddy via “attack” ads. This year, the No. 12 pilot just might have the momentum to pull it off.
Ryan Blaney angled for most popular driver last year
Ryan Blaney made the playoffs and finished eighth last year. Chase Elliott won the regular-season title and advanced to the Championship 4 but came up short and finished fourth. Days after the final race at Phoenix, the Penske driver switched gears and shifted his focus on trying to win another title: the most popular driver. And he took a unique approach by putting out “attack” ads on Twitter.
“NASCAR’s most popular driver, Chase Elliott; he uses a fork and knife to eat his wings,” the first ad started while showing a graphic that featured the 2020 champion in a frustrated pose with his hand to his head. “Not Ryan Blaney. He uses his hands. This election season, vote for a man willing to get a little dirty.”
But that wasn’t all. Blaney produced a second, similar advertisement, which referred to Elliott as “Mr. Fork and Knife,” then hilariously suggested the HMS driver thinks parmesan garlic is too spicy. Blaney, the ad said, deserved the vote because “he can handle the heat.”
Both spots concluded with the standard political verbiage identifying who was responsible for the content, including “Moms for Blaney, Babies for Blaney, and Dogs for Blaney.”
Blaney has a sense of humor and isn’t afraid to show it
Taking direct aim at the opposition is one approach. But Blaney has a body of work that is also convincing to voters. And no, we’re not talking about his on-track performance.
The “attack” ads clearly showed the Penske driver has a sense of humor. The 29-year-old has shown his funny side numerous times throughout his career in unexpected ways.
In 2021, he sat down for a joint Zoom interview with teammates Joey Logano and Austin Cindric. The conversation went off the rails when the No. 12 driver started using various filters to change his appearance, including looking like Yoda, which resulted in Cindric, Logano, and NASCAR’s Alex Weaver breaking out in laughter.
Last year, before the start of the season, he participated in a photoshoot for Fox’s coverage that also included a “fun room.” Boy, did he ever have fun.
A clip of his activities made it online and showed the driver wearing large gold-rimmed sunglasses, ala Elton John, and a black hair-cutting cape. With a green screen behind him, he lip-synced Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and hilariously shifted his head to the song’s rhythm.
When the song reached the chorus, he tore off the cape, revealing his race-day firesuit, grabbed the glasses and tossed them to the side, and then, with confetti blasting behind him, grabbed a broom handle and began using it as a microphone.
Could championship put Blaney over the top?
Blaney is a likable guy. His antics show why. Unsurprisingly, his winning the championship is popular in the Cup Series garage. His favor in NASCAR and beyond should only increase in the coming months as he makes appearances as the champion.
However, when it comes to the Most Popular Driver Award, he doesn’t have months but weeks. Voting ends on November 29.
Can the momentum generated from winning the title in Phoenix translate into him being voted the sport’s most popular driver? Possibly. What might put him over the top? Maybe a political ad or two.
Make your voice heard. Vote here.