By Dustin Albino

Miles the Monster has bitten Ryan Blaney throughout his NASCAR Cup Series career. This time, Blaney laughed back at Miles.

With qualifying getting rained out on Saturday, Blaney took the green flag for the Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway from third position. That’s where he hoovered around for nearly three-and-a-half hours on Monday.

The No. 12 car finished third in both stages; behind William Byron and Denny Hamlin in the first stage and trailed Ross Chastain and Byron in the second stage. Still, Blaney earned 16 stage points on the afternoon.

“Just felt like we ran third all day long,” Blaney said following the race. “Big improvement from last year.”

Blaney was on pace to finish third before a caution flew for his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano with 14 laps remaining. Jonathan Hassler, crew chief of the No. 12 Ford car, elected to go with two tires, getting Blaney a shot at the win from the front row.

“It was two calls: either stay out or take two tires,” Blaney said. “Four has bit us before and there were so few cars on the lead lap and going to be so little laps left, it‘s like, ‘let‘s take two.‘ I almost stayed out, but I don‘t know if that would have won the race or not.”

On the final restart, Martin Truex Jr. and Blaney drove deep into Turn 3 and battled side-by-side for more than a lap before the No. 19 Toyota prevailed. Chastain was able to scoot by to get second, moving Blaney back to third where he would eventually finish over the seven-lap dash to the finish.

The third-place effort is Blaney’s first top-five finish in 13 Dover starts. In his prior 12 races, he had a pair of top-10 finishes, both being eighth-place finishes in 2016 and 2018.

Having struggled at Dover in recent memory, the No. 12 team to work to improve its performance at the Monster Mile over the offseason. In 2022, all three Penske cars finished at least three laps down, with Blaney being the best in 26th position.

“We’ve struggled here for the last four or five years just as an organization,” Blaney noted. “We‘ve never been able to hit it very good. We worked super hard this offseason to try to get better at Dover. We definitely did that. Hopefully, we learned something for the future.

“Really proud of the effort running how we did all day. It was a lot worse last year, so I‘ve got to be proud of the effort and improvements. Even though you don‘t win the race, you have to be proud of solid runs and happy to keep getting better.”

Collectively, the organization had just one top-five finish in the six prior Dover races. Blaney’s third-place finish is the best for the team at the Monster Mile since Logano also finished third in 2018.

While Blaney had a solid outing on Monday, his teammates still struggled. Logano had multiple tires cording, and eventually wrecked out and finished 31st. Austin Cindric was four laps off the pace in 26th.

“I don‘t know what they had going on today,” Blaney said. “We definitely all try to get better.”

The series heads to Kansas Speedway next weekend, which was once one of Blaney’s best tracks on the schedule. He has seven top-10 finishes in 16 starts, and finished ninth last fall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *