Ryan Blaney had one of the fastest cars in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, but at the end of the day, he had very little to show for it.
Blaney finished second to eventual race winner Alex Bowman in the first stage. He turned the tables on Bowman in Stage 2, winning the segment by a wide margin. But Blaney got shuffled back after a restart on lap 128 and found himself in fifth place when Bowman passed Martin Truex Jr. for the lead on lap 133.
By the time Blaney reached second place, Bowman had built an insurmountable lead, and Blaney wore out his right rear tire trying to chase the leader. Three laps short of the finish, Blaney had to bring his No. 12 Team Penske Ford to pit road with a right rear tire on the verge of disintegrating.
The unplanned stop dropped Blaney to 19th at the finish, one lap down. It was a disappointing result for a driver who had led 54 of the 200 laps, second only to Bowman’s 110.
“Yeah, we led a little bit and ran pretty good,” Blaney said. “We just corded a right rear at the end. We lost the lead there at the beginning of the third stage and kind of got swallowed up, and the 88 (Bowman) got away and got gone.
“We needed to be in front of him. It is just the way it goes sometimes.”