BLANEY’S PLAYOFF HOPES ENHANCED BY A NINTH-PLACE FNISH AT NEW HAMPSHIRE

With a solid performance on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team remain in contention to advance to the second round of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, which begin after next week’s race at Dover International Speedway.

At New Hampshire, Blaney earned valuable points in the first two stages of the 300-mile race then came home ninth at the finish to gain two spots in the championship standings.

The team heads to Dover eighth in the standings, 26 points ahead of 13th-place Austin Dillon. Blaney’s finish at New Hampshire, coupled with the eight points earned for finishing fifth in the first stage and ninth in the second, allowed him to boost his margin on 13thplace significantly from the eight points that separated him from 13th entering Sunday’s race.

Sunday’s race was one in which crew chief Jeremy Bullins made smart calls on pit road and Blaney was able to avoid incidents on the track. He ran in the top 10 for the majority of the race after starting fourth, his best performance yet on the flat, one-mile oval.

“We worked hard on this race track,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “It definitely has not been one of my best, but it’s nice to see a decent run here.

“We finished OK and go on to a place like Dover, where we run pretty decent. Hopefully, we can survive next week and move on.”

But he cautioned that even with a double-digit advantage over the 13th-place driver, there are no guarantees that he won’t be among the four drivers eliminated from the playoffs after next Sunday’s 400-miler at Dover. In his most recent race at Dover, Blaney finished in the top 10 in the first two stages before suffering a drive-train failure just after the start of the third stage.

“You’re never really comfortable with your position, unless you have a win,” he said. “Like I said, Dover has been a decent track for us and it’s just a matter of finishing it and seeing what we can do.”

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