After two enjoyable weeks in the off-season, Ryan Blaney was eager to return to racing. Because he’s not scheduled for any offseason testing, however, the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford won’t be back in his car until February.
That doesn’t mean Blaney can’t work on ways to improve from a season where he qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on points and finished eighth in the final standings.
“I make a list at the end of the year,” Blaney said. “OK, what did we do well? What did we struggle with? And like what are your goals to get better? What do you really want to improve?
“Me and (crew chief) Jonathan (Hassler) sat down last week and went through our list of notes, and like where do we want to get better and improve at, and what did we do well and can still build off of?
“That stuff to me is always really helpful. You look back on the year, and you’re like, ‘Well, we screwed up in this situation. Let’s jot that down and let’s try to figure out a different way. If that comes up again, let’s change it.”
One race Blaney would like to change is the season-opening Daytona 500, where he had a chance to win on the last lap but finished fourth as rookie teammate Austin Cindric took the checkered flag.
“The one that stings the most is the 500, because we’ve been so close to that that thing for years,” Blaney said. “That one stings the most, but I try to get over that stuff really quick.”
Blaney comes into his eighth full-time season riding a 46-race winless streak. One could say in an era that rewards winning during a season that saw so much parity, that it was impressive that Blaney marched all the way to the third round of the playoffs without a trip to victory lane and in that round, if not for two self-inflicted mistakes in the opening two races of the round, Blaney could have been the one in the Championship 4 instead.
That’s a race that he finished second in, remember.
3 of the last 4 years he’s marched to the semifinal round. 4 of the first 5 years he was in Cup, he won just a single race each season. Last year was the first time that he won multiple times in a season. He followed that up with being winless. Now, he’s hopeful to use all of that and to make a final four run in 2023.