Ryan Blaney has had a very fast race car this season. In fact, one could make a take that Blaney is arguably one of the top five cars in terms of fastest speed. The problem is, his finishes don’t reflect that.
That’s why I feel he’s an underrated driver heading into the postseason next month. On Saturday, Blaney got a much needed finish as he brought his No. 12 Ford home in fourth place in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at the Michigan International Speedway.
Blaney, was third and second respectively in the two stages and led the second most laps all day with 27 of 161 laps led. So, he was there in the end, just as he’s been in more races than not lately. He finally capitalized on that and earned his first top five result since his win back in June at Talladega. That’s why some would raise their eyebrows when I make the statement that he has a top five car.
But, you may forget that in the second race of the season he had to pit while running for the lead in Vegas as a late race caution cause strategy to cost him a top two. In the third race at Fontana, a tire went down on him while running second in the closing laps again. He should have three straight second place finishes to start the year off. Instead, he had one top 10.
Following a rough return to racing at Darlington, he was third in both races at Charlotte. He wrecked while leading at Bristol. Then he had four straight top five finishes after including his Talladega win.
From there, he was 12th and 22nd in Pocono, had an early race pit stop problem a week later in Indy, finished sixth with a broken shifter at Kentucky, seventh at Texas after sweeping both stages and leading a race high 150 laps, then 20th in each of the last couple of weeks.
See, the speed is there, the luck just hasn’t been. That’s why having an quiet uneventful day was just what Blaney needed on Saturday.
“I thought our car was really good,” Blaney said. “I thought our Mustang was pretty good all day. We made a good call there before the competition caution to come in and pit and that cycled us up to 12th or something and we were able to drive to third before that stage and then ran second in the second stage.
“We took four tires there when we got in our fuel window and it was hard to get through traffic. We didn’t handle good so we came in again with maybe 18 to go and changed it up a little bit and made sure we were good on gas and were able to drive through there. I wish we would have kept third before that last caution because I would have chose the bottom and had a little better shot. I am proud of the effort. (Kevin Harvick) was really fast. We need to work on our stuff a little and I think we can compete a little better tomorrow.”