During the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, Ryan Blaney looked to have one of the best cars at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. However, the ISM Connect 300 turned into an average day for The Wood Brothers.
Blaney started the event fourth, his best qualifying effort since his victory at Pocono Raceway in June. After lap 1, the No. 21 car was up to second, getting a jump on the high line behind pole-sitter Kyle Busch. Blaney remained in the top five for the rest of the first stage, finishing fifth.
The second half of the race Blaney remained in the back half of the top 10, never cracking the top five. He ended the event in ninth, and sits eighth in the points, 26 markers above Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who currently holds onto the final transfer position.
“We were kind of in that fifth to 10th place range all day and got a decent finish,” Blaney said after the event. “We worked hard on this racetrack, it’s definitely not one of my best. We finished OK and go onto a place where we run pretty decent at Dover. Hopefully, we can survive next week and move on.
“We just survived it. A lot of people had trouble and we stayed out of it. We had a decent run at the end. This place is a place we need to get better at and I’m proud to do a little bit better.”
In five career starts at New Hampshire, this is Blaney’s first top-10 finish, though never finishing worse than 23rd.
Heading to Dover, the No. 21 car placed 32nd in June, after breaking a rear axle while leaving the pits. The Wood Brothers lost 33 laps in the process.
Though Blaney holds a 26 point margin over the bubble, Dover isn’t a throw-away race and the No. 21 team still needs to improve.
“You’re never really comfortable with your position unless you’ve got a win because you never know what can happen,” Blaney added. “It’s always been a decent track for us and we’ll see what we can do.”
Blaney has an average finish of 10th to kickoff the playoffs, finishing 11th last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. In the 14 races since winning Pocono, he has five finishes of 20th or worse.