For the first time in his young career, 26-year-old Ryan Blaney is the NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings leader. The pilot of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford answered his runner-up finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 with an 11th-place run at Las Vegas on Sunday and now holds a three-point edge on his Penske teammate and Las Vegas winner Joey Logano heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) .
Blaney had a chance to win both races and heads to Auto Club Speedway feeling as motivated as ever to turn a good season start into a race winner’s trophy.
He has three top-10 finishes in four previous starts at the California track. His best showing – fifth place – came in the trip here in 2019, when he led a pair of laps as well.
This weekend Blaney’s No. 12 Ford will be one of three cars (see note below) to carry a special Kobe Bryant tribute in its paint scheme. The car will honor all the victims of the helicopter accident that claimed the NBA superstar Bryant’s life. Blaney met the retired Los Angeles Lakers star and even gave Bryant a racing suit as part of his BODYARMOR sponsorship deal, posting photos of the two on social media.
This week Blaney also revealed the look of his Auto Club Speedway car – done in the Los Angles Laker’s purple and gold colors. The car will carry the numbers 24 and 2 in homage to Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna – who was also on board the helicopter – as well as a sticker honoring the MambaOnThree.org charity organization designed to raise money for the other seven victims of the accident.
Blaney plans to donate sales of the special merchandising to the MambaOnThree.Org organization.