Ryan Blaney advances in playoffs after best result in four months

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Ryan Blaney‘s day started with his No. 21 Ford in last and uncertainty surrounding his chances of advancing in the Cup playoffs.

Blaney started 40th after his car failed post-inspection qualifying Friday.

The day ended with the Wood Brothers Racing driver earning his first top five since June and securing a spot in the Round of 8.

Blaney placed third, his best result since winning at Pocono Raceway on June 11.

“We had a good car right off the bat,” Blaney told NBCSN. “We weren’t the great at the end before the competition caution (on Lap 30).”

Blaney went from 40th to 17th by the time the competition caution waved. Following another caution on Lap 48, Blaney kept his car on track and only fell to fourth by the end of the first 80-lap stage. He placed eighth in the second stage.

“Then there was a mixup with some strategy stuff and pit calls and it felt like we were kind of at the back part of that but we were able to recover and miss that (14-car) wreck (on Lap 198) which was big for us,” Blaney said. “We ran strong enough all day that we should have been in with where we ran. I am really proud of my team for the effort and we will move on to the next round and Martinsville.”

Blaney’s result is also just his third top 10 in the last eight races. The result keeps hope alive for the Wood Brothers, who are seeking their first Cup championship since winning the 1963 owners title.

He heads to Martinsville Speedway seeded seventh in the eight-driver field with 4,009 points.