Ryan Blaney Runs Strong at ISM Raceway – But Not Strong Enough

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 09: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 DEX Imaging Ford, stands by his car during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on November 09, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Needing to make up a 23-point deficit to qualify for the Championship 4, Ryan Blaney started tenth in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500, last among Playoff contenders.

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One Race Left to Decide Who Makes the Championship 4

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 27: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota, leads Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2019, in Martinsville, Virginia. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kevin Harvick’s victory Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway not only earned him a guaranteed position among the Championship 4 drivers to challenge for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title – it certainly upped the intrigue-level for Sunday’s already championship crucial Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway.

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Ryan Blaney Fights Ill-Handling Car, Faces Uphill Battle at Phoenix

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 03: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Wabash National Ford, races William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 03, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney manhandled his No. 12 Team Penske Ford to an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but he finished the night 23 points behind fourth-place finisher Joey Logano—who also is fourth in the standings—for the final two spots in the Championship 4.

“It was a long night,” Blaney acknowledged. “We struggled really bad all night with track position, and then I felt like, even when we got a little bit of it, we still weren’t very good.

“We tried a lot of things tonight, and they didn’t really work. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get many stage points and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) winning didn’t help our cause, but we have to run better than that anyway.”

Nor did it help Blaney’s cause that Ryan Newman, a driver notoriously difficult to pass, held him up during a green-flag run and blocked Blaney’s run off turn two.

“Ryan is Ryan and he is going to race hard,” Blaney said. “I was mad that I had a massive run up top and he just turned right and it made me jump out of the gas and get tight and hit the fence.

“That’s what I was mad about. I was fine with the racing before that, but when someone has a big run like that it’s like, ‘C’mon.’”

That incident likely didn’t change Blaney’s situation heading for ISM Raceway at Phoenix.

“Gotta win,” Blaney said. “Hopefully, we go do that.”