Race Weekend Central

Ryan Blaney Staying Confident Despite Recent Struggles

Ryan Blaney is remaining confident with his No. 12 Team Penske group, even after a bit of a rough patch over the past month.

Blaney, 24, started the season by leading a race-high 118 laps in the Daytona 500. After getting shuffled back with less than 10 laps to go, the No. 12 car got involved in an incident with Kurt Busch with less than a handful of circuits remaining in the Great American Race. Blaney ended the day in seventh, though the championship leader.

Through the first seven races of the season, Blaney had five top-10 finishes, also leading 145 laps at Martinsville Speedway en route to a season-high third-place finish.

Since Martinsville, it’s been rough.

“We have struggled the last couple of races after having fast cars,” Blaney said on Friday at Pocono Raceway. “That is almost like an extra slap in the face when you have fast cars and have problems like that. It just makes it that much worse. The good news is we do have fast cars right now and it is a matter of putting everything together, from not getting into accidents to braking. We need to get on the right track here.”

The No. 12 team did lead 100 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway in April before getting caught up in an incident as the leader on lap 117. That day, he finished a disappointing 35th.

After Bristol, Blaney had a trying weekend at Richmond Raceway, finishing 22nd. At Talladega Superspeedway, he brought the No. 12 car home 18th. At Dover International Speedway, he recorded a top-10 finish, also earning plenty of stage points. However, the last two races at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway have been hard to swallow for the third-year driver, crashing out late and losing a cylinder in the Coca-Cola 600 before the car was engulfed in flames.

Despite the inconsistency, Blaney is happy that the team is bringing fast cars to the track.

“Our team grade is pretty good,” he said. “I am very happy with how everyone is working with each other. I think our cars are pretty good to where they are close to where they need to be. We aren’t quite there yet. Obviously, there are a couple cars that are beating everybody week in and week out, but I think we are right there.

“We just need to find that little bit and put a weekend together. As far as driving, I could do better. I make mistakes. I hit the wall. I wrecked myself at Kansas with a winning car. Just have to be a little smarter and I haven’t been that this year. I need to get myself cleaned up a little and if we make some gains on the car we will be right there with being at the top.”

Blaney comes into Pocono as the defending race winner, scoring his first career victory in the event last season after holding off Kevin Harvick in a thrilling battle. In order to pick up a second victory at the Tricky Triangle this weekend, he will likely have to edge out Harvick and Kyle Busch, who have combined to win nine of the 13 races so far in 2018.

About the author

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Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.

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