DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — No one enters the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as hot as Ryan Blaney. The Team Penske driver just scored his second straight win in a span of six days in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Blaney, was helped with drafting help on the low lane of the final restart for two straight races now and that help was the biggest factor in his trips to victory lane.
Last week in Michigan, the top lane was the preferred lane on restarts. But, with a situation of how that race played out, Blaney took a chance to start on the bottom lane when the top three cars in front of him all elected to start up top.
In Daytona, you don’t get to choose other than the leader. Chris Buescher elected to restart up top. Blaney was on the bottom.
After a push from Corey LaJoie, that’s all that he needed to secure his first career win at the Daytona International Speedway.
“Got a great push by Corey LaJoie,” Blaney said. “That was the big push that got us ahead to the lead. I think he pushed me so good, I mean, me, Corey and the 4 all got single file, we could kind of halfway control it.
“Yeah, just wild. A lot of blocking. These cars drove a little bit differently than the ones before. I feel like you could tandem a little bit more in these cars with this package. Yeah, pretty crazy. We were able to be ahead there when that last wreck on the backstretch happened.
“Cool to get our second win in a row. That’s really special. Happy to put Bodyarmor back on the car for their final race of the year.”
Blaney said that avoiding the “Big One” to set up the overtime was a big factor in this win too because it allowed him to be in second place and get a chance to even restart at the bottom line.
“Yeah, starting off with how we kind of got through that one wreck, I mean, the big one,” Blaney said. “We were in the middle lane. I don’t know how the path opened up and we were able to get out of there unscathed.
“Put us on the bottom for the restart.”
Now, he’s had two straight wins and three straight top two finishes on the season including three top six results in his last four Daytona tries. He’s also had a top six in seven of the last nine races after going 11 straight races without one.
“I mean, it’s just nice to build momentum, that’s for sure,” he said heading into the playoffs. “We won that Atlanta race in March. It’s been a long time since we won last week. Obviously this week, too.
“Yeah, it’s just good momentum. It’s good for confidence. Not only my self-confidence, but everyone on the team, it’s just huge. You can really have good momentum. Momentum is a huge thing in sports especially. What we do. Confidence is big in not only motorsports but sports and life. If you have confidence in yourself, you can achieve something, know what your goal is, go out there and do the best you can and achieve it, that really helps you out.
“That part has been really neat. It’s great that we’ve kind of really got a lot of Playoff points here because that’s something that alluded me in my previous Playoff runs, not a lot of Playoff points when it comes to the end of the year. It’s been really cool to capitalize on all this stuff. It’s what you need, that’s for sure.
“We’re going to celebrate tonight. But Monday morning it’s on to Darlington. We have 10 hard weeks ahead of us. We really have to do our jobs and concentrate. I look forward to that challenge.”
As to what’s sparked the flip in results?
“You know what, I don’t think I can really point out anything in particular over the last month and a half, two months that we’ve been running pretty good. Just everything has been kind of clicking and going well.
“I think a big thing actually, if I can pick it out, is when Brad – I kind of talked about this earlier – when Brad announced he was moving on from Penske, I kind of realized I kind of needed to be that leadership role that he was, really give the extra effort to push myself more and just try to get better.
“I think it’s been paying off on that side of it, just applying yourself more and just trying to make yourself a better race car driver, a better student of the sport. I think that’s kind of helped out. I think that’s kind of the only thing.
“But it goes a long way, that’s for sure. Yeah, it’s been a good past couple months. You just try to be on that uphill deal right there of trying to gain momentum before the Playoffs. We got that right now. Just got to keep track of it.
“I think that’s some of it, is just kind of doing some things that I needed to do and applying yourself more and understanding you need to be more of a leader and putting those things to use.”