On Wednesday night, Ryan Blaney experienced both sides of the coin as he was down a lap at one point, but was able to rebound to score the victory in the UNOH 200.
“I remember growing up here, watching my dad race,” Blaney said. “To do it in that fashion, coming from a lap down and being able to drive through the field like that, it says a lot about our race team and what we can do as an organization and it’s really special to get Cooper Standard and Ford back in victory lane.”
Blaney led the first 41 laps of the event after starting second but jumped the restart at lap 41. He then headed down pit road, serving a pass-thru penalty, going a lap down. Blaney commented that he felt that penalty was unwarranted and that Cole Custer had laid back a lot on the restart, saying Custer was a car length behind him.
“To me, he didn’t maintain caution speed at all,” Blaney explained. “As soon as the caution car pulled off, he stopped pretty much and I maintained speed. He was going to try and get a run, which is what you have to do if you’re on the bottom to have a shot at it and I wasn’t going to give him that run. I went as soon as I got to the mark, or maybe half a car-length early and it made it look worse than it was with him as slow as he was.”
Blaney added that he was pretty shocked that he got black-flagged for the restart rather than a simple warning as “every restart you see with someone going early, you typically see people just get a warning.”
Getting the lucky dog at lap 80, Blaney was given his chance to rebound. Blaney would then make a pit stop at lap 113 to have newer tires than the rest of the leaders under his No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford.
“When the caution came out, there were six trucks behind us,” crew chief Chad Kendrick explained. “I was somewhat questioning giving up that track position, but then I was like, ‘Well, as easy as Ryan has made it look coming through there, let’s get some better tires than the other guys’. I knew the leaders if they didn’t come there with the rain being iffy, they weren’t going to come at all. So we came on and took an opportunity to make a small adjustment and got some fresh tires.”
He then worked his way to the front, moving into sixth with 41 laps to go before the caution flew for a spin by Spencer Gallagher. He’d wait out the 40-minute rain delay, before getting a good restart and coming up through the field, passing John Hunter Nemechek for second with 10 laps to go. As he worked at chasing down Matt Crafton for the lead, the caution flew with two laps to go for an incident involving Ben Kennedy and Ty Dillon. Blaney commented post-race that when the caution flew, it immediately went through his mind that he had a chance, and “all you can ask for is a chance.”
“We were coming up through there the final 10 laps once we got to second and probably would’ve been able to get his bumper and he would’ve moved up,” he added. “It would’ve been tough to pass him. It just opened the door of opportunity as you never know what can happen on these restarts. Obviously, the inside is not the preferred lane on the restarts. Luckily, we got a good one and got the lead.”
On the green-white-checkered restart, Blaney would get the restart that he needed, grabbing the lead and not looking back en route to scoring the victory. Brad Keselowski says the performance by Blaney tonight showcases the talent that Blaney has behind the wheel, and how strong Brad Keselowski Racing is as an organization.
“When it comes to those restarts between him and (Joey) Logano, I have a lot of work to do to keep up so that’s good that they’re pushing me and getting into victory lane,” Keselowski added. “Really proud of the effort for everyone on the team. The last few times I’ve driven this truck, I’ve wrecked it so maybe I’m going to have to retire from driving my own stuff. They’re winning races and doing a heck of a job.”
Blaney had driven for Brad Keselowski on three previous occasions this year, winning the pole at Dover International Speedway, but came up short each time as he posted finishes of seventh, third and second. Now, in his final start of the season with the team, he was able to celebrate.
“It feels really good to finally get in victory lane with this team,” Blaney commented. “I’ve had a chance to drive this truck four times this year and we’ve come close each time. To finally be able to get it back in victory lane in my last start of the year in this truck, it means a lot to get (crew chief) Chad (Kendrick) and Brad and this team back in victory lane at a place like this.”
On top of running the four Camping World Truck Series events, he has also ran seven XFINITY events this year for Team Penske, scoring a win and six top-10s, to go with nine Sprint Cup Series starts for the Wood Brothers. He says he’s fortunate to be able to drive great racecars and has learned a lot from the experience.
“Running the Cup stuff has taught me so much in going back to run XFINITY and trucks,” he commented. “It’s taught me a lot of tools that I can use. It’s been a really good learning year for me, and really fortunate to be given the opportunities.”