Blaney Dominates Early, Settles for 12th
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 9, 2017 | 6:23 P.M. EST
"It's nice to win a couple segments, but I want to lead the last lap. That's the lap I care about, but I thought we made a big gain today as a team." (Photo: Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney’s 12th-place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway might have been more.
A decision to not pit under caution near the end of the second stage and stay out to win put Blaney back in the pack in the final race to the checkered flag. He wasn’t able to get back to the front of the field and despite leading a career-high 148 laps.“Once we got that caution before the second segment, a lot of guys pitted and there was a lot of mixed strategies, and we decided to try to win the segment, which I thought was important to get those point and an extra bonus point, and I thought we had enough of the race to go to try to work our way back up through there, and I think we got to eighth or something like that before the last caution, and I slid through our pit box, and that was an unfortunate deal,” Blaney explained.
“We were kind of pinned in between the 4 and the 88 and there was a weird angle and I just stopped a little deep, and I hurt us on that one for sure. But we just weren't able to pass anybody after that. No one really could do that. I would have liked to have seen it widen out a little bit more than it did today. I know if you tried to move up half a lane to a lane it wasn't really good, but hopefully in time that gets better and better.”
The Wood Brothers Racing sophomore driver has been very solid to start the year and near the front of the field on a nearly weekly basis. The new stage format and the points that go along with its finish has changed the dynamic for many teams, including Blaney's.
“I think it's really helpful for everybody,” Blaney said. “Helps you for the playoffs. It helps you throughout the race. You know, that was 20 points we gained right there. It's just really, really helpful for your kind of long term outlook on things, and to go and hold the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) off and then the 48 (race winner Jimmie Johnson) that last restart before segment 2, that showed how strong our car was. So it definitely means a lot to everybody I feel like, and it's nice to be a part of a couple stage wins with the 21 car. It means a lot.”
Despite the finish, Blaney moved up to sixth in the standings.“Not a bad day for us,” he said. “It's nice to win a couple segments, but I want to lead the last lap. That's the lap I care about, but I thought we made a big gain today as a team.”