BROOKLYN, Mich. – Ryan Blaney left Michigan International Speedway on Sunday (Aug. 7) second in regular-season points. Yet with Kevin Harvick‘s victory in the FireKeepers Casino 400, there are now 15 winners in the regular season. With only three races remaining, Blaney astonishingly is the last driver above the playoff cutline. More mind-boggling is he finished fifth after the 200-lap race as well.
“A shame that another car won,” Blaney said post-race. “Happy for Ford for winning just we didn’t need the No. 4 car (Kevin Harvick) to win. Just try to win the next few weeks and battle the No. 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) in points. It’ll be exciting for sure, so hopefully, we can do it.”
Blaney qualified 24th, his second-worst starting position all season. His Team Penske crew adjusted his No. 12 Ford throughout the race.
“Yeah, we were bad, pretty bad, and couldn’t really go anywhere and was stuck,” Blaney continued. “Jonathan (Hassler, his crew chief) worked on it a lot. Just props for him for getting it better and better throughout the day and for having a car that could run fourth or fifth at the end of the day. It’s to be proud of. Got to make the good out of it and proud of the progress we made.”
Late in the race, Blaney raced Truex Jr. for a top-five finishing position. Truex also is battling for a playoff spot, as he now is the first driver below the cut line. The points situation didn’t factor into Blaney’s driving, however.
“I was just racing another guy at that point. It’s another competitor. I didn’t really think about it, I was just trying to get another spot.”
Never before in the NASCAR playoff era have there been 15 winners in the regular season. This unprecedented season no longer is surprising anyone, with Blaney quipping, “I can now.”
The three tracks left in the regular season are Richmond Raceway, Watkins Glen International and Daytona International Speedway, respectively.
Blaney only has a victory at Daytona, winning the regular-season finale there last year.
Blaney won both the pole and stage one at Richmond earlier this season. Yet in only 11 Cup starts at the 0.75-mile short track, he only has two top 10s, in the two most recent races. He earned his best finish there in the race this year, seventh.
With added pressure now, Blaney is optimistic ahead of next Sunday’s race.
“It’s always a challenge every single week we go. We sat on the pole and won the first stage in the spring so that was nice. We’ll build off that and what do we need later in the race to stay up there. Hopefully, those things apply and we can make it even better and contend. It’s all you can do.”
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.
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