LAS VEGAS – As Ryan Blaney’s postseason beard grows similar to Zdeno Chara during his NHL heydays, so does the former’s confidences chances with his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
It took a frustrating but defining race at Daytona in late August to advance into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs despite his No. 12 Ford Mustang looking more like a Martinsville raced vehicle.
Outside of a few blips during the postseason, Blaney has compiled his trademark consistency with a ninth at Kansas, fourth at Texas and second at Talladega.
Still, the 28-year-old racer is seeking his first NASCAR Cup Series win of the 2022 season. Although NASCAR competition rewards drivers for wins and bold strategies with stages, consistency still counts.
With Blaney advancing into the Round of 8, he expressed confidence ahead of Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).
“I’m looking forward to getting to Vegas,” Blaney said. “I think we’ve come a long way on our mile-and-a-half program. Between Vegas and Homestead and obviously Martinsville is a strong place for us in the spring, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Although Blaney ran within the top 10 leaderboard during the spring Las Vegas race, he was collected in a crash that eliminated him on Lap 104. Meanwhile, the Hartford Township, Ohio native placed fourth at Martinsville’s April race.
While Jonathan Hassler serves his suspension, Blaney has worked closely with interim crew chief Samuel Stanley.
Suffice to say, this duo has not missed a beat at Las Vegas with the fastest time in pre-qualifying practice and a fourth place qualifying effort.
Like his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, Blaney would love nothing more than to put “The Captain” and his storied stock car team into the Championship 4.
A victory at Las Vegas, Homestead or Martinsville would be a breath of fresh air considering the frustrating close calls for wins prior to the Playoffs. All said, with at least one of the Championship 4 spots earned without a race win, perhaps staying the course may not be a bad idea.
“We’ve just got to put together good races with no mistakes and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Blaney remarked. “I’d really like to win and not have to worry about the next two weeks, but I think this team has been doing a great job. They’re really focused right now.”
Presently, Blaney has every reason to believe in his team’s chances to win and battle for a Cup title at Phoenix. A string of top five finishes starting at Las Vegas may be the ticket to a championship duel in November.
However, a win would give the No. 12 team ample time to prepare the car that may net Team Penske’s third Cup championship without the stresses prevalent at Homestead and Martinsville.