RACING

Ryan Blaney to take break from NASCAR playoff race at family SRX

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By Bob Pockras
FOX Sports Writer NASCAR

ryan blaney comes from a family of racing drivers. And he learned from an early age that the sport of running, like all sports, isn’t always fair.

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But the possibility of missing the playoffs when, statistically, he is living one of the best years of his career? It might be hard to digest.

Even though Blaney tries not to think about it, he can’t help but ponder the possibility. The 16-driver playoff field consists of the regular season champion plus the next 15 drivers based on wins, with ties broken by points.

Blaney, whose 12.2 average rating ranks him third in the series, also sits third in the current standings. But 14 drivers have won this year, and with six races remaining in the regular season, there’s a chance that for the first time in the playoff era, only the winners will qualify for the playoffs, with no spots available on dots.

“I’m not really too nervous about it,” Blaney said. “I know deep down, like, OK, it’s a possibility that things could happen.

“But straight away I think if we just win one race, it’s fine. So I just try to focus on winning. That’s just the main thing, and that’s a lot easier to say than to do. the little all year round. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.

Ryan Blaney pictured in the playoffs

Ryan Blaney pictured in the playoffs

Prior to Atlanta, Ryan Blaney was already worried about not making the playoffs on points despite having the most drivers without a win.

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If Blaney needed a good distraction, this weekend could allow him to forget his place in the NASCAR Cup playoff bubble.

Blaney will race the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) series on Saturday night at Sharon Speedway, a .375-mile dirt track in Ohio that he knows quite well. His father, Dave, is a co-owner. And his father will also take part in the event for the series, which consists of former and current drivers from various motorsport disciplines driving equally prepared production cars.

“I’m excited,” Blaney said. “I can’t wait to run with Dad. … He’ll probably wax me pretty good. It’ll be cool to run with him.

“We’ve done it many times before. We raced together years ago, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance before he stopped racing. I definitely couldn’t let go. pass this opportunity.”

Blaney on his dad’s run on the SRX series

Blaney on his dad's run on the SRX series

Ryan Blaney is looking forward to competing against his dad at Sharon Speedway (which Dave Blaney co-owns) this weekend in the SRX race. Says Ryan: “He’ll probably wax me pretty good.”

This will be the homecoming of all homecomings to a place where fans know all about Blaney. Dave’s father, Lou, was a famous modified and sprint car racer and part-owner of the track. Dave shone in dirt sprint cars before making the transition to the NASCAR Cup Series. Dave’s brother Dale continues to race sprint cars, while Ryan has focused on stock cars and NASCAR.

“Very similar to the Andrettis. To have this kind of history on behalf of this family in motorsport is unprecedented,” said Tony Stewart, NASCAR Hall of Famer, who competes and operates SRX.

“It’s pretty cool to not only be able to race against Dave again, but to race against Dave and Ryan at the same time is something that may or may not happen again.”

For Blaney, Saturday’s race should be fun. The Cup race on Sunday at Pocono Raceway? That remains to be seen.

Over the past two weeks, Blaney has gone from 33 points behind points leader Chase Elliott to 78 points, making it a long way for Blaney to win the regular-season title for an automatic playoff bid.

In the past, after races, Blaney would watch the points to see how close he was to Elliott. Now he has to focus on winning. If no one else wins, he’s relatively safe from points, as he’s 37 points ahead of the next winless driver (Martin Truex Jr.) and 105 points over the one after (Kevin Harvick) .

“There are guys who have not yet won what I expect from us, on the 19th [of Truex]the 4 [of Harvick]”, Blaney said.

“Anyone can win. You can see somebody is going to show up a week and jump and win and do a good job, and they’re sitting 20th in points, and they’re there. So it’s a crazy time in this moment. You never know what can happen.”

If there’s one trait of Blaney, it’s the ability to focus on the race car and the race at hand and not be engrossed in everything else. The Blaneys are known to be relatively quiet people and talk most of the time on the track. Ryan, just growing up when his dad was in NASCAR, is the most outgoing of the bunch.

This helped him generate a deep fan base. It probably won’t help him much on Saturday.

“It’s hard to get inside my dad’s head,” Blaney said. “He doesn’t talk a lot. So he can’t really get into my head, I can’t really get into his. As he gets closer I’m going to start making little taps. Nothing too explicit.”

And while he knows Sharon Speedway, he doesn’t think that will be much of an advantage (and certainly not one considering his dad has way, way more laps than him).

“I grew up there a lot with my grandparents and stuff like that, but I had very limited track time,” Blaney said. “Might be a good thing to go up there with the SRX stuff. The less I know the better, probably.”

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To monitor

Goodyear will bring a right-side tire that features improved construction from Pocono. Construction is everything below the tread level of the tire (mainly the beads and rubber layers except for the outer layer).

The hope is to give riders more grip and greater stability, as it is common for riders to go solo this year.

Goodyear tested this right-side tire at Pocono and Charlotte.

“We consider this performance boost to be significant as it was positive on the one and a half mile tracks, as well as Pocono’s unique setup, with its three distinct corners,” said Goodyear racing director Greg Stucker. .

Anything that contributes to stability is good for drivers. They have to hope it’s more durable too, as Goodyear has had its challenges with the Next Gen car and the teams working to find the right balance of air pressures and camber that allows the car to go fast while by not punishing the tire to the point. where it fails.

Tire loads will be a major concern at Pocono due to the three different corner configurations and high speeds on the 2.5-mile track.

Thinking out loud

Petty GMS Racing’s decision to release Ty Dillon after the season, a decision announced last week, is hardly a surprise. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

Dillon entered New Hampshire 27th in the standings and dropped to 28th following an early crash. His average score this season is 22.15, compared to 17.35 for teammate Erik Jones.

Jones obviously clicked with crew chief Dave Elenz, who was brought in before the merger when GMS Racing bought Richard Petty Motorsports. Dillon and team leader Jerame Donley never found a good synergy.

Will Dillon find another place to run? It’s possible, although it could end up being in trucks or the Xfinity series.

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They said it

“We want to be bold and innovative when thinking about new places and new concepts that we are going to visit. This is number 1 on the list for us right now, and it will definitely be the most anticipated event of our season. .and one of our nation’s biggest sporting events in 2023.” – NASCAR’s Ben Kennedy on the Chicago Street Race

Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!


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