As the laps ticked away, it seemed two tires would be enough to win the day at Phoenix. Then Kyle Busch was added to the equation.
As one of the few cars that pitted under the seventh caution of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500, Blaney used the two new right-side tires, and three subsequent restarts to run down and pass race leader Aric Almirola with 60 laps to go.
“I fired off really good,” he said.
After Kyle Busch passed him with 55 to go, he reeled in Blaney, who was conserving fuel and tires.
Despite this, Blaney maintained a small advantage over Busch with less than 30 to go. With 20 to go, however, the handling of his car went to the tight side and four laps later, Busch passed him on the inside of Turn 2 and cleared him going into Turn 3.
Throw in lap traffic, and Blaney was “just done.”
“Honestly, we hung on better there on two tires than I thought we would,” he said.
“I think (Busch) was kind of riding back there too. I don’t think he was in the situation I was in (fuel saving), but then I started to get real tight.”
The remaining laps, he went into fuel save mode and came home third. It’s his best finish of the season to date and first top five and top 10 finish in 2019. He also led 94 laps and won a stage.
The only hiccup was when he pitted a second time under caution for loose lug nuts.
“Shame we couldn’t get Money Lion and Ford a win, but definitely a good weekend, after the start we’ve had. This is where this team deserves to run.”
Blaney leaves Phoenix 12th in points, 64 back of new points leader Busch.