MARTINSVILLE, VA — Ryan Blaney hasn’t won a points paying race in the last 45 events now. His last trip to victory lane was in May during the All-Star race, but that doesn’t get you the advantages of a regular season or even postseason victory. It’s just that, an exhibition race.
His last victory came at Daytona in the 2021 regular season finale. He also came into Sunday’s Xfinity 500 winless in 13 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. What was at stake?
Ending both droughts.
He nearly did.
Blaney qualified 4th and scored 8 stage points. But to be 18 points down entering the race, that wasn’t going to be good enough. While he was sixth at the end of the second stage, he restarted 2nd on a couple of instances in the final stage. It’s just that he didn’t have enough speed to truly contend for the win.
He was second when the caution came on for Landon Cassill’s crash on Lap 466. All but two cars came down pit road. Blaney was one of the 15 lead lap cars that did. He’d restart 7th on four fresh tires. Unfortunately, the speed let him get back to 3rd, but he was two spots shy of the clinching win and in turn, he’s eliminated in the Round of 8 for 3rd time in the last 4 years.
“It just wasn’t quite enough,” Blaney said. “It was a wild day. I didn’t think we were great to start. We kind of faded at the end of that first stage, but we got better throughout the night, which is good, and found ourselves in second on the second-to-last run and kind of ran the 20 down. I got to him and then you burn your stuff up trying to pass somebody.
“There weren’t many passes for the lead tonight and then the last restart I thought I was in a good spot on the bottom. I thought more pandemonium was gonna happen than that and the 20 got down and he was able to kind of go to work and I couldn’t really get going as good. It’s unfortunate not to transfer, but proud of the effort. I didn’t do a great job the last two weeks and put us in a bad spot, but I’m proud of everyone all year and we’ll try to go run well at Phoenix. I ran him down by a little ways and got closer, but I just couldn’t pass him. You kind of burn your stuff off trying to pass somebody and he kind of drove away from me. We still had a shot at it there with the last caution and just didn’t get through the traffic as good as he did and once he was able to get the lead. I’m proud of the effort tonight by everybody, but it just wasn’t quite enough.”
Blaney being the final driver into the playoffs and the only one winless in a year that saw 19 different drivers win a points paying race was still a remarkable feat. Unfortunately for him, two mistakes in this round of his doing cost him more than the winless streak.
He was 3rd in Las Vegas before spinning by himself. He’d finish 28th. A week later in Homestead, he entered the pits for the final time in 3rd again. He made a costly error by downshifting and spun. He finished 17th. Take both away and he was likely above the cutline entering the day and could have been one of the 4 fighting for the title next week.