By David Morgan, Associate Editor
LEBANON, Tenn. – With just 10 races remaining in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season, Ryan Blaney has yet to make the trip to Victory Lane in a points paying event.
Though that might not be such a big deal for the driver sitting fourth in points, the debut of the Next Gen car this season has shaken things up, leading to 12 different drivers punching their ticket to the postseason with a win. As it stands, only four spots remain up for grabs to see which drivers will be battling it out for a championship later this year.
While that might worry some of the drivers that have yet to win, Blaney is taking his place as the highest driver in points without a win in stride.
“Obviously, we want to have a win,” Blaney said. “It’s getting down to where four guys are in without a win right now. Yeah, we’re the highest points guy, but that doesn’t really mean much if you’re not the points leader and four guys win and you’re out, so it’s kind of a weird spot we’re in, honestly. I think about this week and we’re kind of sniffing the points lead. There are like five of us that are really close to the 9. OK, if you don’t get a win and you win the regular season points, you’re in.
“So, our strategy is, ‘OK, we need to strategize to win races,’ but you don’t want to dump away a lot of points because you’re still in the fight for the regular season championship. It’s kind of an interesting spot. Obviously, the easy goal is to just go out and win races, but last week was tough. This opposite strategy, we short-pitted everything and threw away stage points to restart towards the front in the stages, but we threw away a bunch of points, but we got a good finish and then contended for the win.
“As far as am I nervous? Not really. I think we can go out and win any single week. We’ve just got to execute well and do our job to the best of our ability and if we do that, I think we can get one here soon.”
Through the first 16 races of the year, Blaney has scored five top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes, with his best finish of fourth coming on four different occasions at Daytona, Phoenix, Martinsville, and Gateway.
In addition, he cashed in at the non-points paying All-Star Race at Texas, banking the $1 million prize.
Should Blaney finally check off a points win in Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway, he’ll do so from sixth-place as he looks for redemption from last year’s brake failure that relegated him to a 37th place finish.
“To be honest with you, it was just a bad day last year for us,” Blaney said. “We qualified good, but we had to start in the back messing up our quarter panel coming on the track and then 40 laps later we blew a right-front rotor and knocked the fence down. I didn’t have any fun here last year on Sunday and I’m hoping to change that. It would be nice to run the whole race this year and hopefully contend for a win.”