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"Sometimes I Have a Short Temper": Ryan Blaney Regrets Flipping Ross Chastain the Bird during Title-Clinching Race

The 2023 Cup Series champ flipped the Watermelon Man the bird during the championship race in Phoenix.      

By Andrew Woodin
Split of Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain

In the wake of Ryan Blaney holding off Kyle Larson in Phoenix to notch his first NASCAR Cup Series championship, the Team Penske wheelman of the No. 12 Ford Mustang has been experiencing what it means to be victorious at the highest level in the most elite stock car circuit on the planet.

Celebrations and congratulatory television engagements were all part of Blaney’s victory lap in New York City with his girlfriend Gianna Tulio. But as the glow of triumph begins to fade, self-reflection for the emerging superstar now seems to have shifted into gear.

RELATED: How Does Ryan Blaney Think He'll Fare against Buddy Chase Elliott in Race for NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award?

In a recent interview with People, Blaney was reminded about appearing to give the middle finger to Trackhouse Racing’s intrepid driver Ross Chastain — who actually won the championship race in Phoenix, Arizona — spurring Blaney to look inward.

“I might have ... briefly,” recalled Blaney of the gesture, which was captured on his Ford Mustang’s in-car camera at the championship Cup Series finale at Phoenix Raceway on November 5.

What does Ryan Blaney now say of giving Ross Chastain the middle finger? 

“Am I ashamed of it? Yes,” Blaney told People. “I hate that people caught that. Sometimes I have a short temper and it sort of bursts in the car. I just got to get it out, and then I feel better about it."

Ryan Blaney poses on top of the Empire State Building

The friction arose in Phoenix after the pair went toe-to-toe for the lead during the final stage of the race, and after Blaney had been blocked several times. He bumped Chastain and also flipped him the bird after struggling to pass him. 

RELATED: Will 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Champ Ryan Blaney Shave His Beard Next Season?

While Blaney comes across as a mild-mannered, somewhat soft-spoken presence off the track, like many a racer in NASCAR’s top flight, the third-generation wheelman can flip a switch once he’s behind the wheel of his Next Gen car, sending his competitive nature into overdrive. But, like his father Dave Blaney, who began racing in NASCAR full-time when Ryan was just 4 years old, the bearded Blaney realizes that along with his competitive mindset also comes a propensity to unleash his temper.

“I'm similar to my father in that aspect,” Blaney explained. “He and I are very close in terms of our personalities. We are pretty quiet guys most of the time, but we're fiery about what we do. When you're passionate about what you love, sometimes that boils over.”

“It's just one of those things that I try to get better at,” he added. “It's hard to do for me. I just care about it so much. ... It’s something I'm working on, but it's hard to get those things out of you.”

Despite pushing the limits as an often tenacious, somewhat temperamental competitor along his NASCAR journey, he’s also cultivated a more sensitive side.

RELATED: “Never Had Any Doubts”: Gianna Tulio Gushes Over Boyfriend Ryan Blaney’s NASCAR Championship

“Yeah, I cried [after winning the championship], and that was a surprise,” Blaney admitted to People. “I was just overcome with it, and that's pretty rare for me to get to that emotional standpoint, but I’m just so proud of the effort of so many people. You get to thinking about those folks and all they've sacrificed to put you in this spot. It was definitely an emotional time.”

Gianna Tulio and Ryan Blaney smile for a photo on top of the Empire State Building

So, who does Blaney credit for helping him tap into his emotions? That honor goes to none other Tulio, who’s been steadfast by his side for more than three years.

“It’s been fun to explore that [softer] side ever since she's brought it out in me,” Blaney says of Tulio, a successful model.

“She didn't know anything about the sport when I met her, and it's been fun to teach her about it and her to get involved with it," he adds. “It's cool that she's taken such a liking to it.”

As far as next steps for the champ, Blaney might be in cruise control at the moment when it comes to his career, but when it comes to his personal life, the wheels are turning. 

When asked if a marriage proposal could be on the way, Blaney responded: “It's one of those things that you're planning on, and you hope happens sometime soon."

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