Ryan Blaney is hitting his stride at just the right time.
The No. 12 Team Penske driver heads into Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale, at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) on a hot streak that serves as one of the best in his career. In the past eight races, beginning at Pocono Raceway, Blaney has only two finishes outside of the top six (20th at Road America, 14th at Watkins Glen). That equals an average finish of 7.25 in that stretch.
But how does that compare to Blaney’s previous seasons? Before his current streak, Blaney’s best average finish in the same stretch of races (race Nos. 18-25) is 12.5 in 2018. That year, Blaney was eliminated in the Round of 12 of the playoffs. Below is a breakdown of his average finish in races 18-25 in all six of his full-time seasons, including where it ranked among other drivers in the field.
Season Avg. finish Season rank 2021 7.25 1st 2018 12.5 7th 2019 14.375 13th 2017 18.25 16th 2020 18.25 16th 2016 20.5 19th
Now let’s compare Blaney’s streak to other drivers in that same stretch of races over the past six seasons. Traditionally, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have been strong during the final run into the playoffs. As you can see in the chart below, both drivers have set the bar high, with sprinkles of success from Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch before you get to where Blaney’s average finish ranks.
Driver Avg. Finish Season Kevin Harvick 4.75 2020 Martin Truex Jr. 6 2020 Denny Hamlin 6.25 2017 Denny Hamlin 6.5 2016 Denny Hamlin 6.625 2020 Kevin Harvick 6.75 2018 Kyle Busch 7.125 2019 Ryan Blaney 7.25 2021 Kyle Larson 7.375 2021 Erik Jones 7.5 2018
As it stacks up, Hamlin was able to transfer the momentum gained in the final stretch of regular-season races into one Championship 4 appearance (2020), while Harvick was able to do the same in 2018. The only one on the list to win a title in that same year was Busch in 2019.
While a lot can happen in the 10-race playoff stretch, statistically, Blaney has put himself in the best position of his career heading into the postseason. If he can keep clicking off top-five finishes, it might be his best chance for his first Championship 4 appearance to date.
HOW RYAN BLANEY’S HOT STREAK COMPARES TO PREVIOUS SEASONS