FanShield 500 Continues Blaney’s Bad Luck, Makes Early Exit

 FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway with Ryan Blaney in practice on March 6, 2020
AVONDALE, ARIZONA – MARCH 06: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Tarkett Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 06, 2020, in Avondale, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The FanShield 500 produces new points leader at Phoenix

Ryan Blaney’s luck turned from bad to worse on Sunday, and it cost him the NASCAR Cup Series lead.

Despite a pit call at Las Vegas that cost him a chance to win and a corded tire at Auto Club Speedway that forced his No. 12 Ford to pit road from second place with three laps left in last Sunday’s race, Blaney was first in the standings on the strength of solid stage finishes in the first three races.

That came to an abrupt close in Sunday’s FanShield 500 when Blaney’s race ended ten laps before the first stage did.

Blaney was seventh for a restart on lap 64, but when Denny Hamlin’s Toyota broke loose underneath Brad Keselowski’s Ford, Blaney’s Mustang was collected in the melee in the middle of turns three and four. Unable to continue after repair attempts on pit road, Blaney dropped out after completing 65 laps and fell from first to sixth in the series standings 41 points behind new leader Kevin Harvick.

“From the car, I couldn’t really see,” Blaney said of the accident that ended his day. “A couple of us were three-wide. I was happy to be on the top. I thought we were going to roll the top pretty good through (turns) three and four there. It looks like the 11 tried to send it in there below the 2 and got loose and hit him and then over-corrected and got us.

“We got up in the dirt and we just ran right into the fence. Just an innocent bystander there. It sucks to have it end so early like that and have that happen so early in the race. We didn’t even have a chance to work on our car. We weren’t great the first run, but we made a big swing at it, and we don’t know how that change was. It stinks when you are taken out like that. We’ll just go on to Atlanta (next Sunday) and see what we can do.”