Ryan Blaney told me last week during Media Day that the track that feared him the most in the 10 race postseason was the Richmond Raceway. Before we get to Saturday night’s race, lets rewind back to February.
Blaney, had a solid first half of the regular season. In fact, I could make a case to where his No. 12 Ford was arguably one of the fastest cars on the race track. He jumped out of the gates to what should have been three straight top two finishes.
He was runner-up in Daytona. Was second at the time of a late race caution a week later in Vegas and second again before a tire problem in the closing laps at Fontana. He crashed to end the west coast swing at Phoenix, then the pandemic happened.
Still, after a rough resumption of his season at Darlington (16th, 21st) he came back with authority. Blaney, rattled off six top four finishes in a seven race span. The only hiccup was a crash while leading at Bristol on May 31.
The silver lining was that the pace was there and following a win in mid June at Talladega, he was there as arguably a championship sleeper. Unfortunately, he’s going to rough it out just to make it out of the first round now.
Blaney, finished 24th last Sunday in the Southern 500 at the Darlington (SC) Raceway — last among playoff drivers. He also lost 10 points due to his car having problems in pre race inspection. He in a tie for last in the playoff standings (-17).
Now, he has two races left, starting with Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN) at the Richmond (VA) Raceway and next Saturday night for the Bristol Night Race to get this ship steered in the right direction.
Over the last 14 starts, Blaney has just one top five finish. He only has four top 10’s at that. Seven of his last 14 races have seen him finish 20th or worse.
Blaney’s best finish in eight starts at Richmond is 17th in last year’s playoff race. See why he feared this place. After that it’s back to Bristol to where Blaney has been fast in leading 100 or more laps in three of his last five starts and 60 more back in May, but has finished 10th or worse in eight of his 10 starts on the high banked Tennessee oval. He’s scored just one top five at Bristol despite leading so many laps.
So, the situation for Blaney is that he needs to turn this season around at tracks he’s not been statistically great at.