Reigning Cup champ Ryan Blaney enjoys last few rewards before focusing on new season

Ryan Blaney pulled his new black-and-highlighter yellow racing uniform out of a bag Wednesday morning and unfolded it. His eyes went to the upper right hand portion of the suit to a white line with black lettering.

It read “Champion” underneath the NASCAR Cup logo.

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“That was one of the things I was most looking forward to,” Blaney told NBC Sports about seeing the new addition that will be on all his Cup uniforms.

“I was pumped for the logo. You put your suit on in the mirror every race day morning and you see it. It’s just a nice reminder to yourself personally. After we got the trophy and stuff after Nashville ended, well, now I can’t wait for the (champion’s) patch on the suit.

“Now I need to find a way to get the 2X or whatever the heck they put, an X2 or whatever (for a second championship). So we’ll see. That’s the next goal.”

Even after a championship season, Blaney hasn’t changed his approach, following the routine he’s done after previous seasons — critical self assessment.

“I always sit down in the winter and try to pick out things I don’t like about myself and try to work on them,” said Blaney, who turned 30 on Dec. 31. “Not like a resolution, but like what can I do better. Both personally and professionally. Kind of have those conversations with myself. They’re not fun.”

Blaney kept those conversations private but said he felt that self-examination helped him have him an unforgettable year.

He won three races last season, tying his career high. Among those victories was the Coca-Cola 600.

His Talladega victory moved him to the Round of 8 and he advanced to the Championship 4 by winning at Martinsville. Blaney claimed the title by finishing second to Ross Chastain in the Phoenix season finale.

While his season had its ups and downs — he had seven finishes outside the top 30 in the regular season — Blaney and his team gained momentum at the end of the year.

Blaney scored five finishes of sixth or better in the final six races. He had not had a comparable stretch last season.

One of the rewards of winning the series crown is to possess the Cup champion’s journal.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jimmie Johnson started the tradition in 2011. The current champion receives the journal from the previous year’s champion. Each champion adds their own thoughts on a page before giving it to the next champion. The champions do not reveal what is in the journal.

Joey Logano, the 2022 Cup champion, gave the journal to his Team Penske teammate in the offseason.

“I sat down and just read it all as soon as I got it,” Blaney said. “It’s just neat to see everybody’s little entries and what they say because everyone’s a little different. It was cool. Seeing all the champions in there, Jimmie and Tony (Stewart) and all those guys. It’s just neat. … I’m excited to make my own entries.”