Ryan Blaney has lofty but realistic Phoenix expectations

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Blaney said the objective is simple at Phoenix International Raceway.

“The main goal is to win,” the Sprint Cup rookie said Friday after practice. “That’s every team’s goal.”

But Blaney’s expectations are a little more realistic.

“I care about trying to run like we did at Las Vegas,” he said. He finished sixth at Las Vegas for his first top-10 finish of the year and the third of his career.

“Anytime you have a good run the previous week, it gives you a lot of momentum for the next week. Luckily for us we had a good run at Vegas after a bad run at Atlanta,” said Blaney, who was on track for a top-15 finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway until he was involved in a last-lap accident.

Scoring top-10s is the key for the Wood Brothers Racing team, which lacks a charter in NASCAR’s new system and is not guaranteed a starting spot each weekend.

Strong finishes build confidence. A top-10 finish also proves helpful in the battle for Rookie of the Year.

Last week, both Blaney and Chase Elliott ran among the top 10 all day, but a late-race crash cost Elliott a shot at joining Blaney in the top 10.

“It was unfortunate to see what happened to him at Las Vegas,” Blaney said. “He had a really good car, and we were right next to each other all race really. You don’t ever want to see that. I don’t ever want to see my buddies get in wrecks, even if you are competing with them.”

Wins come after strong runs and pushing too hard causes problems such as Blaney experienced at Atlanta.

“These Cup cars are awfully tricky,” he said. “I caught myself being really greedy like you could be in a Truck, so you have to be really careful over there in that turn. It’s really just a long, flat slippery corner.

“In these you can’t be as aggressive, so it took me a few laps to try and get used to and pull the reigns back a little bit.

“I don’t look at the rookie points stuff really at all, just like I don’t look at the Chase stuff right now. I’m sure later on in the season I might pay attention to that, but right now we are focusing on having runs like we had last week.”