Blaney tries to move into title hunt
DOVER, Del. — Ryan Blaney kept the party rolling from his first win this season long enough to stimulate business at his favorite bar. He soaked in the celebration from his checkered flag on the roval at Charlotte. Now he hopes to stamp himself a contender in the next round of NASCAR’s playoffs.
Blaney, one of NASCAR’s blossoming young stars, earned an automatic spot in the second round when he zipped past Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. for the surprise win on the speedway and infield road course blend.
Blaney had some fun at the expense of a Fox Sports panel that predicted he would fail to advance out of both the first and second rounds of the three-race playoff rounds. He tweeted a clip of the studio show where panelists left him out of the round of eight and wrote, “Sure hope to prove y’all wrong once again.”
“Yeah, to be honest with you I had a few to drink that night when I said that,” Blaney said, laughing. “I saw that and it rubbed me the wrong way. I was just messing around.”
The Team Penske driver got the last laugh at Charlotte. But even he is not convinced one win automatically made him a title contender along with former series champions Truex, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.
“I wouldn’t say we’re a championship favorite,” he said. “I’d say we’re in the hunt, and honestly we’ve been in the hunt all year.”
The chase toward the title continues Sunday at Dover International Speedway. Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway also make up the races in the second round.
The last four drivers standing after three rounds will race for the best finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18 to be crowned the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion.
Blaney is still in the mix. Stewart-Haas Racing holds four of the 12 spots: Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola. Team Penske is right behind SHR with Blaney, Joey Logano and Keselowski. Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman are in the field for Hendrick Motorsports. Truex (Furniture Row Racing), Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing) and Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) make it 12. Kyle Busch and Harvick start 1-2 in Sunday’s race.
There is some urgency for the non-Penske drivers to win or post a top-10 finish at Dover: Talladega is on deck and Keselowski and Logano have combined to win five of the last seven races at the superspeedway.
Larson crashed out of the first Talladega race and finished 40th — the kind of result that will knock him from contention this time around.
NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney sprays champagne on his teammates in Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. on Sept. 30.