By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney was among those starting the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs strong. The third-year driver avoided the misfortunes of most Playoff Grid drivers to finish fifth in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Over the course of the final restarts, Blaney’s No. 12 PPG Ford Fusion was in tow with his Team Penske teammates. In the chaotic scramble in overtime he battled three-wide with Kyle Larson and defending champion Martin Truex, Jr. While Larson and Truex chased eventual winner Brad Keselowski, Blaney slipped back to Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
Restarting on the outside resulted in spun tires for both Blaney and teammate Logano. Meanwhile, his other teammate, Keselowski had no trouble on the inside lane, cruising to the organization’s 500th win across multiple forms of motorsports. Blaney finished fifth in a three-wide battle with Logano and Busch.
“We were all over the place,” Blaney admitted. “I was good on short runs and long runs I was really loose. We were trying to get it to where it would last. We got it a little better but definitely not where we need to be. It was a struggle. They worked really hard all day. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Blaney was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on multiple occasions. The 24-year-old narrowly avoided an accident between Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray. Blaney also was just ahead of Kevin Harvick when he cut a tire, as well as an incident that involved Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Michael McDowell among others.
“I tried to stay out of trouble and just survive I guess,” Blaney added. “Congrats to Brad and the 2 team on their 500th win for Team Penske, that is pretty neat. We have to work on some stuff but salvaging a decent day is a good day.”
The fifth-place finish is the sixth top-five for Blaney this season. It also moves him from ninth to seventh on the Playoff Grid, 45-Points behind Championship Points Leader Truex. Blaney is 14-Points ahead of the cutoff for the Round of 12, currently held by Alex Bowman.
Now Blaney will look ahead to Richmond Raceway for the second race of the 2018 Playoffs.