Needing to have a strong performance in order to keep himself alive in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff fight, Ryan Blaney went to Homestead-Miami Speedway and found some speed, finishing second in Sunday’s 4EVER 400.
After leading 53 laps, second only to Kyle Larson, and challenging the Hendrick Motorsports driver throughout the race’s final stage, a series of late-race cautions — one of which saw Larson get into the back of the No. 12 entering pit road – shook things up for the Team Penske driver.
With 38 laps remaining in Sunday’s 400-mile contest in Florida, Blaney and Hamlin were on the front row for the restart, when things got pretty close exiting the second corner, with the No. 11 nearly sliding into the side of the Menards-sponsored entry.
That allowed Christopher Bell, the eventual race-winner, to make a three-wide move to the inside three-wide of Hamlin and Blaney, and get the lead. But, the hard racing wasn’t over yet, as the two nearly made contact again a half-lap later.
The high level of aggression continued for a couple of more laps between the two drivers, with Hamlin eventually getting the spot from Blaney after utilizing a couple of more slidejobs, but also not before William Byron was able to get second place.
However, within a couple of laps of that pass being made, Hamlin’s race took a turn for the worse, after a steering issue sent the No. 11 straight in the middle of corner, where he slammed the outside wall.
While the incident was unfolding directly in front of him, Blaney could be heard on his team radio, chuckling and saying “fuck you, dickhead” as the No. 11 went up and hit the outside wall.
That was after Blaney's chuckle and "f**k you, dickhead" to Hamlin crashing in front of him. https://t.co/dtNgQqaowW
— Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall) October 22, 2023
Though, even after finishing the final 30 laps of the event, Blaney was still pretty upset with the way that Hamlin raced him after, and spoke his mind to members of the media on pit road after the race.
“Oh, well he tried to slide me two or three times, failed miserably, and then just decided to use me up,” Blaney said. “If you’re going to slide somebody, slide somebody and commit, don’t halfway do it and use me up, so, what does he say, hack? I think he was that today.”
Ryan Blaney expressed frustration with the No. 11 after the race Sunday. pic.twitter.com/T8rwQSoGSf
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 22, 2023
While the near-misses didn’t cost Blaney the victory, by any means, it didn’t do him any favors either, and with those spots he lost while racing Hamlin in his pocket, there could have been an entirely different story leaving Homestead.
Regardless of that, Blaney and Team Penske enter next weekend’s event at Martinsville sitting 10 points above the cutline, at one of the High Point, North Carolina-native’s best tracks in the NASCAR Cup Series.