By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
To say it was an up and down day for Ryan Blaney would be an understatement. Despite tagging the wall early and losing a lap, the young Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran still managed to finish eighth at Auto Club Speedway.
On the final restart with nearly 70 laps left in the Auto Club 400, Blaney found himself outside the top-15. Slowly, he clawed his way back towards the top-10. After the final round of green flag pit stops around 45 laps to go, Blaney was running 12th on the running order.
As the laps wound down on the longest tire-run of the race, his tires held up better than others and he picked off his competitors one-by-one. However, there wasn’t enough time to mount a challenge for the top-five, and the High Point, NC native took the checkered flag in eighth.
Just 15 laps into the 200-lap race, Blaney’s No. 12 PPG Ford Fusion tagged the wall on the frontstretch. The damage slowed his performance, eventually costing the Team Penske driver a lap. His crew, led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins, pulled out the right front fender, clearing the tire. The 24-year-old’s Fusion came to life shortly afterwards. He moved back on the lead lap by taking the wave-around under one of the five cautions.
Blaney credited his pit crew, on Twitter, for the amazing repair job,
About to head East, want to thank the 12 group for their hard work throughout the race after I hit the wall. They did an amazing job, I didn’t. Was a long road back to get a strong finish out of it. Excited to sleep in my own bed.
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) March 19, 2018
The eighth-place finish was Blaney’s third top-10 finish of the season. He slipped from fourth in the Championship Points Standings to fifth. Blaney is now 35-points behind points leader, and race-winner Martin Truex, Jr. He is however, one of only seven drivers that has earned a Playoff Point so far this season.
Now Blaney, Bullins, and the entire No. 12 team will prepare to the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, March 25.