Ryan Blaney finished sixth on Sunday in Las Vegas, the highest he’s ever finished on a 1.5-mile racetrack. Consistent could describe the youngster’s weekend as he was hardly outside of the top 15 in the race.
Blaney’s day started alongside fellow Rookie of the Year competitor, Chase Elliott in the 14th position. For the majority of the 400-mile event the No. 21 car remained inside of the top 10, falling out after a mixture of pit strategy with 53 laps to go.
After restarting 11th Blaney quickly surged to just outside of the top five, resulting in one of the best finishes of his young career.
“We had a great car all day,” Blaney said. “We were toward the front most of the day. We were so good at the end of long runs. We would give up a little on short runs, but we were so fast at the end.”
To a degree, Blaney’s car matched what eventual race-winner Brad Keselowski’s car would do. At the start of a run the car would struggle, but by the time 40 laps went he was able to gain all of those positions back.
With the technical alliance with Team Penske, all three Penske-affiliated cars finished inside of the top six. This also marks the best finish by a rookie this season, beating Elliott’s previous record of eighth at Atlanta.
The 22-year-old believes that this could help the team going forward and be a boost to the team morale as the season progresses.
“We took two [tires] at the end and that helped us, got us a little bit of track position.," Blaney said. "It was just a good day to forget about Atlanta last week, that was a rough one for us. Hopefully this is a good momentum builder."
As the Cup Series heads to Phoenix Blaney sits 14th in the point standings, just seven points ahead of the cutoff position. But with finishes of 19th and 25th to start the season this was exactly what The Wood Brothers needed to build upon in its first full-time season back in NASCAR’s elite division.