Ryan Blaney has had his moments of frustration but hasn’t given up hope after the roller-coaster first half of the NASCAR Cup season.
While the Penske driver is ranked 10th in the standings, has five top-5 and seven top-10 finishes, Blaney’s season has been anything but consistent, especially compared to his teammates Brad Keselowski (No. 3 in points) and Joey Logano (No. 4) who have three and two victories, respectively.
He opened up the season with a crash at Daytona and finished 22nd for two consecutive races before reaching the top-5 at the next three tracks. However, his car then overheated at Fort Worth where he finished 37th, his worst result of this season. Since then, Blaney has reached the top-10 four times (along with four other top 20 finishes in the top 20) in a span of 10 races.
With a record like this, it invites one question of the 25-year-old — what’s going on?
“There’s something things that we’ve been able to control that we haven’t done the best job of kind of optimizing. But some things are out of your control,” Blaney said. “Things happen that you can’t really predict happening — flat tires or parts breaking, things like that ...
“When those things do happen, you sit back, try to figure out how to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again. People make mistakes, drivers make mistakes, crews make mistakes all the time.”
Blaney, a Ohio native, isn’t a stranger to the racing scene. He was born and raised on the track, spending countless hours in the garage and traveling around the country with his father, retired NASCAR driver Dave Blaney. Watching his dad race made Blaney realize he wanted to do the same.
Since his start in the Monster Energy Cup series in 2014, Blaney only has two wins — Pocono in 2017 and Charlotte (Road) in 2018. He has been winless in 2019 despite having what Blaney describes as “the potential to win a few races.”
“That’s kind of the way it goes, but you try to learn from them, cut back on some mistakes, and try to keep learning and keep getting better,” Blaney said. “...This team is still kind of reaching their potential.”
The momentum seems to be building. Blaney has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races — Michigan (9), Sonoma (3) and Chicago (6).
“It’s a big momentum sport, and just try to carry that momentum all the way, all the way through the year,” Blaney said. “You’re gonna have good days, you have bad days, but it’s about minimizing those bad days, making the most out of the good ones.”
Last week’s race showcased Blaney’s “reset mentality” as he fell a lap down after he blew a tire at the end of Stage 1. He then rallied.
“You’re bummed out about it for a little bit under caution but you just forget about it and reset,” Blaney said. “Focus on how to fix the problems instead of dwelling on it. That’s something that you try to keep in the back of your mind of ‘It’s done. It’s a done deal. You can’t fix it. I can’t go back.’
“So I go, ‘Alright, what’s the problem and how are we going to overcome this?’”
With the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on Saturday night, Blaney has a chance to to make a comeback after his wreck on the same track at the beginning of the season.
“No one’s perfect, but you can pinpoint a lot of things and try to fix those problems,” Blaney said.
“Some of it is just luck, racing luck. We haven’t had the best racing luck this year. But you never know, that stuff may turn around here before you know it.”