Ryan Blaney scored a win and made the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs to highlight his 2018 season.
The Team Penske driver finished 10th in the final point standings in his first full year behind the wheel of the No. 12 entry. Along the way he led 660 laps – double that of his career laps led prior to the 2018 season – and posted career best in top fives (8) and top-10 (16) finishes.
Had it not been for an L1 penalty after his second-place Texas finish in November, Blaney might have finished higher in the final standings but he was overall still proud of the season’s effort.
“It was up and down a little more downs than I would like it to be,” Blaney said. “I thought we were pretty fast all year. Honestly I think we would have been about fifth, sixth in points but we had a few bad races with points getting taken away from Texas after that race, blowing up running second at Phoenix and having a rough Homestead. That kind of stuff took the wind out of sails but overall a good year.”
Among the highlights of the year was Blaney snapping a 50-race Cup Series winless drought when he took the checkered flag at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in September. It came in dramatic fashion as leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson made contact heading to the checkered flag. When the duo crashed, Blaney took advantage and scored the win.
“That’s not how you really want to win them,” he said. “I’d rather go out and dominate the race and win by a lap, but you’ve got to take them how you can get them nowadays.
“We put ourselves in a spot to be there, though. We did a great job all day of winning a stage and putting us in a good spot for points.”
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Blaney also set a mark that may not be duplicated for some time. Blaney’s qualifying lap for the Texas November race was 26.932 seconds at 200.505 mph, posted nearly one year after Kurt Busch set the track record at 26.877-seconds/200.915 mph, could stand for some time given the new Cup Series rules package that goes into effect in 2019 which will greatly reduce horsepower and speed.
“I would have liked to gone 201 mph to be honest with you,” he said after the run. “I mean, it is super fast, that is a product of it being night time and a little colder outside and a good handling race car.
“Honestly we go to a lot of tracks now that are pretty close like Michigan where you go faster than that. Here it is super fast. It doesn’t really feel like it, you are just trying your best to hit your line. You won’t see much of that stuff next year, so enjoy it now.”
Blaney will return to the Penske organization again next season and team with 2018 series champion Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. His hope is to build on what was accomplished this year and make a run for more wins as well as the series title.
“I think being more consistent,” Blaney said when asked what he’ll work on in 2019. “We put together two or three really good weeks and then have some bad luck and just not good runs.
Blaney summed up his thoughts on the campaign with his usual dry wit.
“It was real special to bring back the 12 car,” Blaney said at the Awards banquet in Las Vegas. “I can’t thank the Penske group enough and for Menards for coming on board. I guess I have a Christmas card coming to Jimmie Johnson.”
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