Blaney Texas
Ryan Blaney finished 33rd at Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday. (HHP/Tim Parks photo)

Blaney ‘Digging Down’ Amidst Struggle To Bring Ford A Win

Ryan Blaney knows Ford needs a victory — and needs it badly.

It’s been nine races and the blue-oval manufacturer has come up empty-handed in NASCAR Cup Series competition, while Chevrolet and Toyota have just about split the bill as far as trips to victory lane go.  

It’s been hit-or-miss for most of the Ford teams — including Team Penske, RFK Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing — though they’ve shown plenty of speed on superspeedways.

“All of the Fords were strong at Atlanta. I thought we were really strong at Daytona and I’m sure Talladega is going to be the same way,” Blaney said, referencing this Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. “It’s obviously not the performance like we would have wanted to have so far this year even on the other tracks, but we’ve put together some pretty good runs on our side.”

Within the bubble of his No. 12 Team Penske crew, the reigning Cup Series champion believes they’ve been creeping up on victory lane — there’s just been a few roadblocks in the way.

Two weeks ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Blaney’s early lack of track position resulted in a fifth-place finish. Then last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the team mixed up pit strategy in stage two and weren’t able to claw back from their mistakes, leaving Blaney to finish 33rd.

“At Texas, during stage two, I thought we could compete for the win. I thought I was on par with the 11 (Denny Hamlin), the 45 (Tyler Reddick) and the 9 (Chase Elliott). I thought we made gains. I felt more competitive at Texas, so we definitely got closer,” Blaney said.

Compared to where he was at six weeks ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the North Carolina native has noticed steady improvements from his perch in the driver’s seat.

“I personally felt more competitive at Texas than I did at Vegas. I know I ran third at Vegas, but I never felt like I had a shot to win the race. I always thought the best we were gonna perform was third and we did that and maximized our day,” Blaney explained.

With an average finish of 13.9, the Team Penske driver is the highest-ranked Ford driver in the Cup Series standings. Sandwiched between two Toyotas, Blaney holds down seventh.

The next Ford driver — Chase Briscoe — is ranked 12th.

While the wins haven’t come yet, Blaney has every reason to believe the No. 12 team is one small step away from victory lane.

“I feel like we’ve done a better job this year of persevering through these races and just getting better and really digging in. I feel like last year it took us a little while,” Blaney said. “We ended last year in this spot like the last couple months of really persevering and digging down and figuring things out and we’ve carried that over to this year.

“There are a handful of races where we’ve run top five in that we weren’t top five to start the race and we just bent down and gritted our teeth and we figured it out and got better through the race and figured out how to get good finishes and that’s how you have to do it and that’s what this team does really well.”

He’s not panicking about the lack of wins or laps led, rather he’s trying to process the season from a “big picture” standpoint.

“Yeah, I want to win right now obviously, but you’ve got to figure out how to have it just progress to where you want to be,” Blaney said. “All I can do is focus on this past weekend, where can we be better, what areas do we need to focus on to try to be better in and just work on those.”

This Sunday’s trip to Talladega may just be what Blaney — and Ford — needs. Being a superspeedway, the 2.66-mile facility is a track that breeds optimism for Ford drivers.

Blaney is also the most recent winner at Talladega, having won there last October.    

“Hopefully we can put one together at Talladega and get a Blue Oval in victory lane. We need that pretty bad and I couldn’t think of a better place to try and get one,” Blaney said.