AVONDALE, Ariz. - Ryan Blaney led a quartet of top-10 Mustangs in the season finale of the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway behind race winner and 2021 series champion Kyle Larson (Chevrolet). Blaney, who led 33 laps early in the race, was joined inside the top-10 by Aric Almirola (6th), Kevin Harvick (8th) and Brad Keselowski (10th).
The top-10 finish for Keselowski closed out his career driving the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske. Keselowski moves on to a driving and ownership role with Roush Fenway Racing in 2022.
Chase Briscoe had a hard-luck day on the track, finishing 35th after a wreck on lap 159 when contact was made with Kyle Busch which sent the No. 14 Ford into the wall. Despite the tough day, Briscoe clinched 2021 Rookie of the Year honors, making him the second straight Ford and Stewart Haas Racing driver (Cole Custer, 2020) to earn the award.
The 2021 season comes to a close as teams look toward the future of the sport with the debut of the Next Gen vehicles, including the Next Gen Mustang in February 2022.
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
Martin Truex Jr.
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th - Joey Logano
12th - Matt DiBenedetto
13th - Cole Custer
23rd - Ryan Newman
24th - Michael McDowell
25th - Chris Buescher
27th - BJ McLeod
30th - Josh Bilicki
34th - Anthony Alfredo
35th - Chase Briscoe
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Jack Links Ford Mustang -- FINISHED 4th
“We had a good race. There was a group of us that were kind of behind the top-4 guys that were racing pretty much all day. We had a good Mustang there on the last run and we were able to get up to fourth. I am really proud of that effort. It was a really good last run for Todd (Gordon) before he hands it up. I wish it was a win. I can’t thank him enough for the last couple of years and I can’t thank this whole group enough for this year. It has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we will be in the Championship 4 next year.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang -- FINISHED 10th
NOW THAT YOU HAVE CLIMBED OUT OF THE 2 CAR FOR THE LAST TIME, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACE TODAY AND YOUR PENSKE YEARS?
“Yeah, it was a fun race. We couldn’t really catch any breaks today. The first stage there we stayed out and got that long run and kind of got ate up. We recovered from that and got ourselves back in the hunt to sixth or seventh and then we pitted under green a little early to try to pick up some spots. But the yellow came out and trapped us a lap down. We were 23rd with like 50 go to and we drove back up through to 10th. I would have loved to see that race run a really long green there at the end to see what we could have done. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang -- RETIRED EARLY DUE TO ACCIDENT ON LAP 156
WHAT HAPPENED TO CAUSE THE CONTACT FROM THE 18?
“We were racing hard. We had a really, really good long-run Mustang but our short-run speed, we were just trying to hang on. We were three-wide one time off of Turn 4 and the 18 got into me a little and gave it a little bit of a tire rub. I think he was getting frustrated because I was just trying to hold those guys up as long as I could because I knew if I made it 15 laps I would be okay. He got into me into 3. I don't know if he just sent me or what. I feel like at the same time, my left-rear tire cut. I don't know if that was from the damage earlier and then when he got into me the second time it finally cut it or what. At that point, I was along for the ride. It is super unfortunate. We had for sure a top-10 car and if we could have had some long runs maybe even a top-five car. We went all year long and never crashed a car, so to end it on the last one like that is unfortunate. You always want a good run at the end of the season to build momentum into the off-season. You just want to have good runs every week. I hate it that it ended this way, but I am looking forward to the future and everything that entails.”
YOU ARE THE 2021 NASCAR CUP SERIES ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, HOW DOES THAT FEEL?
“I wish there was more competition for it and we were going up against more guys but it is really cool to be able to win it in all three series now. That is something that is really special. I didn’t know if I would ever get a chance to run in the Truck Series, let alone all three. To be able to win Rookie of the Year, I think only two other guys have done it in all three. That is really cool to accomplish. It is a nice thing to achieve by the end of the year. You kind of start the season hoping that you win it and then to be able to lock it up is nice.”
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR ROOKIE YEAR?
“I don't know. I definitely had higher expectations coming into the year. It was a weird year. As a company, we struggled way more than we thought we would. I think last year I read a stat that SHR, in general, had 42 podium finishes and this year we only had four or five. You base your expectations off of last year and we just weren’t quite there from a performance standpoint. I think you alter them a little bit. For me, we were competitive in a couple of races and battling for a few wins and top-fives. I think we have proved that whenever we get the car driving right and have the speed we are fully capable of running up front with those guys. I wouldn’t say the season was a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I would say somewhere in the middle. There is still a lot that I have to do way better. The Cup guys are so good. You have to be on it 100-percent and clean up a lot of little things. I feel like going into the Next Gen car it will be nice to have a year under my belt and know all the little things to work on during the off-season to try to apply to next year.”