In Wednesday’s media availability during NASCAR Playoffs Media Day, Ryan Blaney emphasized that he feels his No. 12 Team Penske team can go toe-to-toe with Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin and be a true contender for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship, despite only having one win this season.
“I think so, I am not going to sit here sand say, ‘Nah, we don’t have the speed,’ Blaney said.
Blaney chalks up his optimism for the Playoffs to the speed his team has carried all season long. Had it not been for poor execution and circumstances, Blaney feels he could be entering the Playoffs seeded higher than Seventh in the standings.
“I think our team can, it’s just a matter of playing to our strengths and not make mistakes, that’s the big thing,” Blaney explained. “Speed-wise, this year, we’ve been close. It’s just a matter of execution. I think hopefully we can put all of that stuff together here.”
However, the Round of 16 will be crucial for Blaney’s potential success in the 2020 Playoffs, as the opening round features his least favorite race track — Richmond Raceway. The North Carolina-native has circled the 0.75-mile speedway in Virginia as his one weakness in the Playoff schedule.
Blaney, in fact, has never scored a top-10 finish at Richmond, one of just three tracks on the schedule where he has not been able to accomplish the feat. Interestingly enough, one of the other tracks that Blaney has never recorded a top-10 at is Darlington Raceway, the site of this weekend’s Cook Out Southern 500, which will kick off the Playoffs.
If Blaney is going to make his mark and have a long sustained run in these Playoffs, he’ll more than likely need career-best performances at both tracks, especially with the Round of 16 wrapping up at Bristol Motor Speedway, where anything can happen.
The 2020 season started off on an odd note for Team Penske, as the organization shuffled their crew chief lineup. Long-time Brad Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe was sent to Joey Logano’s No. 22 team. Ryan Blaney’s crew chief Jeremy Bullins was sent to Keselowski’s No. 2 team. And Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon was sent to Blaney’s No. 12 car.
In the availability, Blaney said the acquisition of Gordon to his team has been huge for his growth, as it has shown him there is a different way to think about races week in and week out in the NASCAR Cup Series, as he had only known about Bullins’ crew chief methods.
The 26-year old driver says that he has now even begun to combine thoughts and ideas from both Gordon and Bullins into helping him craft his race weekends this season.
If Blaney can put together a solid opening round of the Playoffs and get the finishes that go along with the speed of his No. 12 car for the entire 10-race Playoffs, the sky could be the limit for Blaney and his team.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.