Ryan Blaney comes into his eighth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series riding a 46-race winless streak. One could say in an era that rewards winning during a season, that saw so much parity in 2022, that it was remarkable 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.
“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 that Blaney would like to change is the season-opening Daytona 500. That’s where he had a chance to win on the last lap but finished fourth instead, 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 has been close more times than not lately in Daytona and enters this year’s Speedweeks hoping to end it on top.
Also, 3 of the last 4 years, Blaney’s marched to the semifinal round. 4 of the first 5 years that he was in Cup, he won just a single race each season. 2021 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.
“Yeah, definitely after the year we had last year of kind of missed opportunities and not having the best of years and things like that, not winning, it feels like it makes you more motivated than ever,” Blaney said. ” Really, how our season ended I would say motivates me the most, even without the wins in the regular season or things like that, I messed up two of the races in the Round of 8 and it kept us from getting to Phoenix and we had a car that could contend at Phoenix, for sure. That kind of stinks and you look back at that and you’re disappointed in yourself when you’re the one who kind of inflicts both of those mistakes. I think everyone is motivated and I feel like, as a driver, as you get older you’re mindset is trying not to dwell on those things too hard and just learn from them and move on and realize you’re gonna have good years and bad years and try to figure out a way to come off the bad years and turn them into good years and take the positives out of it and apply it. I think that’s kind of what fuels our team. I’ve got a great group. They’re very deserving to race at Phoenix and win races and I think what we’ve learned last year and hopefully be applied to this one.”