Ryan Blaney was set up for the win this weekend in Phoenix. He was second quick in practice on Saturday and backed that speed up with the pole minutes later. It was Blaney’s seventh career Busch Light Pole Award but three of them have occurred at this very race track.
Also, Blaney had 5 top 10’s in his last 6 at Phoenix including 4 of which being in the top four. With a pole, was this his time?
It was until it wasn’t. Pit road was the culprit.
Blaney, led the first 27 laps but while pitting during the competition caution, he was caught speeding. He’d have to go to the back. On Lap 45, the second caution came out for the tire falling off Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 Chevrolet. Blaney, would use strategy on this sequence. He was one of five drivers to pit on Lap 48. With the first stage ending on Lap 60, why not?
It worked. He’d finish 13th in the first stage but cycle to the top spot once everyone ahead pit on Lap 63. Despite having 15 laps older tires, he’d hold everyone off for the next 57 laps. He’d pit from the lead but this time have a solid stop. When Chase Elliott pit on Lap 132, Blaney went back to the top spot and would win the second stage.
Unfortunately, that’s where his race changed again. He entered pit lane with the lead but a slow stop took him from first to fourth. He’d fall to fifth before a caution for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash on Lap 220. When they’d pit again, he’d go from fifth to 11th.
Blaney, lost nine spots on pit road which is why despite leading a race-high 143 of 312 laps, he’d only muster a fourth place run.
“I lost the lead there on pit road and just could never get back,” Blaney said. ‘I don’t know. I just didn’t have quite the speed and was kind of too tight. I could drive up through the field and make good spots and nobody could really do that. You would just get really tight behind people. Not a bad day. A good recovery from last week. We had a fast car, just a shame we couldn’t contend more for the win. It is cool to see Briscoe get his first win and we will go on to next week.”
Take the pit road miscues away, which has happened for two straight weeks now, and he’d likely have a win heading back east. Still he’s now led 100 or more laps in nine races over the course of his career but has won none of them.