By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Pole sitter Ryan Blaney had an up and down afternoon during Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Despite leading a race-high 143 of 312 laps, Blaney wound up fourth.
When things appear to go well for the Penske driver, a few setbacks plagued the veteran from being a contender for the win.
During the first 25 laps, Blaney was in control but once the competition caution came out, his day became challenging. Although Blaney had a solid pit stop, he was caught speeding on pit road. Relegating him to the rear of the field and wasn’t able to crack the top-10 at the end of Stage 1. He ended up 14th.
Blaney would regain the lead after the front runners pitted for fresh tires and held onto the top spot for a period of time in Stage 2. Despite facing some opponents who were eager to catch the leader, Blaney held onto the top spot. Notably, holding off Chase Elliott in the closing laps to collect 10 stage points and a playoff point.
The final stage wasn’t what Blaney had hoped. Among the issues were a slow pit stop that prevented him from staying out front. From there, the race favored the men who were looking for their maiden Cup win. In the end, it was Chase Briscoe who went on to score his first series win over Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick while Blaney crossed the line in fourth.
Blaney found it difficult to explain what he needed to be in the mix for the win, but referred to the costly pit stop.
“I lost the lead there on pit road and just could never get back. I don’t know,” said Blaney. “I just didn’t have quite the speed and was kind of too tight. I could drive up through the field and make good spots and nobody could really do that. You would just get really tight behind people. Not a bad day.”
Sunday’s top-five sparked a much needed turnaround for Blaney after finishing a dismal 36th last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He’ll head to Atlanta Motor Speedway seventh in the championship standings, a six spot improvement.
“A good recovery from last week,” Blaney commented. “We had a fast car, just a shame we couldn’t contend more for the win. It is cool to see Briscoe get his first win and we will go on to next week.”
Atlanta so happened to be the site of one of three wins he scored last season. Specifically, the spring race where he dethroned Kyle Larson in the closing laps to get the victory. Time will tell if Blaney can replicate the result with the 1.5-mile circuit being re-banked and re-surfaced.
Coverage of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 begins Sunday, March 20 at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX.