For the three races prior to Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway, Ryan Blaney seemed as if he had been on a merry-go-round.
Three races, three finishes of 33rd or worse: 33rd at Bristol, 36th at Richmond (crash) and 39th last Sunday at Talladega (crash).
During that three-race span, he fell from sixth to 13th in the NASCAR Cup standings.
But Blaney’s bad luck of late finally turned good Saturday night. He was the No. 1 qualifier, led 83 of the race’s 267 laps and appeared headed to what potentially would have been his first career NASCAR Cup win.
Unfortunately, Blaney fell short of victory lane, but not by much, finishing fourth, his second-best finish of the season to a runner-up showing in the Daytona 500. He also moved back up two spots in the standings to 11th.
“It’s nice to have a good run today,” Blaney said. “Yeah, of course we wanted to win, but at the same time, you look at the gains we made all weekend and really being fast all weekend, that puts us back to where we need to be for sure.”
While he didn’t reach his ultimate goal of victory lane, Blaney still took a great deal of positives out of not only his finish, but also of his and his team’s cumulative performance.
“(It was) a good showing, going out there and leading laps and running with some really good cars,” Blaney said. “That’s where this team deserves to be, and that’s where they hopefully will stay.
“So (if) we keep bringing fast cars to the racetrack like that, you never know when maybe one might fall our way.”
Despite a loose race car for much of the race, Blaney kept his composure and either stayed at or near the front of the field.
“I felt like we were the best car from maybe 15, 20 laps, especially if we were out front,” Blaney said. “We got that caution at the end and beat the 78 (eventual winner Martin Truex Jr.) off pit road.
“I thought we were in a pretty good spot, and he made a really good move on that restart and was able to pass us, and then we had a couple more opportunities towards the end of that race, and he got a couple really good restarts and I didn’t, and that was kind of the deciding factor.”
With those three bad finishes behind him, it’s now time for Blaney to build upon his Kansas finish and go out to earn several good race finishes in a row at upcoming tracks such as Charlotte, Dover, Pocono and Michigan.
“It’s really just nice to be back on track to be honest with you,” Blaney said. “The last three races have been really, really bad, and it’s just an extra kind of slap to the face that we’ve had really fast cars in all those races we had troubles in, and we shouldn’t have finished 35th.
“We should have had top 10s in all of them. So it was nice to show our muscle this weekend and prove that this is where the 21 team deserves to be.”