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Ryan Blaney’s Second Win Of 2021 Slips Away Thanks To Pit Road Penalty, Rebounds To 11th

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – APRIL 11: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 11, 2021 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney had to settle one position shy of the top ten in Sunday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 after a strong day was derailed thanks to a pit road penalty. Nevertheless, Driver No. 12 was able to have an impressive rebound in the closing laps, gaining eight spots to salvage a solid day.

“A really good Menards / Shell-Pennzoil Ford tonight,” Blaney told FOX Sports post-race. ” The long runs we were really good, then it was good on short runs. I just tried to hold off the guys behind me, until about 20 or so laps in, and then I could kind of start creeping forward.”

Heading into what should have been a Saturday night race, Blaney was riding a top-ten streak dating back to Las Vegas in March, including a win Atlanta just two races ago. His statistics at the historic short-track are extremely impressive, especially in recent visits. Of the last five trips to Martinsville preceding Sunday’s race, the Team Penske driver finished in the top five four times, including finishing second in the last two races at Martinsville.

After rolling off fourth, Blaney spent time in the lead just past halfway in Stage one at lap 75. Keeping the race in his control, he took home the Stage one victory and would lead ten laps heading into Stage two before Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin took the top spot.

Only 34 laps later on Lap 175, Blaney would retake the lead for nearly a fifth of the race’s advertised distance and finish Stage two in first, getting his third stage win of 2021. It marked the third time in his career that the Team Penske driver swept both Stage one and two in the same race.

He lost the led once again to Denny Hamlin, who ended up leading the most laps on the day, but remained in the top-five for a great majority of the race’s final stage. As fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe went for a spin on Lap 453, many of the lead lap cars came down pit road for what would be their final stop for service. Blaney took four tires, but a costly mistake put what would be the chance of his first multi-win season to rest.

The North Carolina driver was penalized for removing equipment from his pit box after an air gun got caught under the car, leading to the air hose and gun leaving the box. Blaney was sent to the rear of the field thanks to the penalty and restaredt 19th for the final sprint to the finish. After leading 157 laps, Blaney would settle for 11th.

“Just a mistake, and something that should be avoided,” Blaney told FOX Sports’ Regan Smith. “Proud of the effort, just wish we could close that one out.”

Thanks to his finish, and more importantly his stage victories, Blaney continued his ascension in the points, gaining two spots from seventh to fifth.

Driver No. 12 will turn his attention now towards another historic short-track of Richmond Raceway for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.

Statistically speaking, the odds are stacked against Blaney. He has never finished better than 17th in the Cup Series visits to Richmond, and has an average finish of just 24.8.

He’ll look to score his first top ten finish at Richmond this weekend, and become the second multi-race winner of 2021.

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