A fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway was almost as good as a win for Ryan Blaney.
Almost. Blaney would have preferred to have parked his pole-winning car in Victory Lane for the Go Bowling 400, but after three consecutive finishes of 33rd or worse coming into the weekend, Blaney can see the positives in his performance. Those include leading the race’s second-most laps (83) and winning the second stage.
“So, it was nice to show our muscle this weekend and prove that, like I said, this is where the 21 team deserves to be. It’s just nice to get back on track. [We’re] going to a few racetracks that are pretty good for us – Charlotte – and then we’ll keep moving on. It’s nice to have a good run today. Yeah, of course, we wanted to win, but at the same time, you look at the gains we made all weekend and really being fast all weekend, that puts us back to where we need to be, for sure.”
It started with Blaney capturing his first career pole on Friday. From there, the driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford found himself one of the main players throughout Saturday night’s race. After winning the second stage, Blaney lost the lead to eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. with 25 laps go. A caution one lap later set up the final round of pit stops, and as they had done most of the night, Blaney’s team got him off pit road first.
However, Blaney lined up second (on the inside) to Erik Jones, who opted to stay out on older tires. From third place, Truex split the middle and quickly drove away. And although Blaney had three subsequent restarts to try and regain the top spot, he was unable to mount a challenge to Truex.
“It’s whoever is in the lead off of [Turn] 2 pretty much, and unfortunately, [Truex] was in the lead into 1, and we never even had a shot to race him,” Blaney said. “I felt like if we could have – our only shot was maybe be door-to-door with him through 1 and 2 and try to get him loose, and if we cleared him, you never know.
“He was pretty good. But it was really whoever got in front and got the lead at that point, and he was really fast in that little final stage. That was the deciding factor for sure.”
Even with the confidence that his car was better on a short run, Blaney admitted he wasn’t sure if he would have been able to hold off Truex.
“But a good showing, going out there and leading laps and running with some really good cars,” Blaney said. “That’s where this team deserves to be, and that’s where they hopefully will stay. So, we keep bringing fast cars to the racetrack like that, you never know when maybe one might fall our way.”