The last few weeks have felt like “an extra slap in the face” for Ryan Blaney.
The Team Penske driver has earned three DNFs in the last six races despite having fast cars and leading more than 150 laps.
“When you have that combination of a team and driver that can win, like Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch who are just dominating, that is trouble for everybody else,” Blaney said Friday of the struggle for him and other young drivers to win this season. “It is hard to break through. The odds aren’t very good. They aren’t really in your favor.”
The odds have worked against the Team Penske driver since the April 16 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Blaney was leading when a wreck in front of him he couldn’t avoid ended his day on Lap 117. He had one top-10 finish over the next three races and then wrecked out at Kansas Speedway 20 laps from the end after leading 54 laps.
In the Coke 600, Blaney felt he had a top-five car, but his No. 12 Ford suffered from a dropped cylinder for much of the race before the engine erupted in flames on Lap 278.
Now Blaney heads to the track where he earned his first Cup win last year after battling Harvick and Busch in the closing laps.
“You want to win every week but when you come back to a place where you have had success that definitely is nice,” Blaney said of Pocono. “Especially after the last couple of weeks. We have struggled the last couple of races after having fast cars. That is almost like an extra slap in the face when you have fast cars and have problems like that. It just makes it that much worse. The good news is we do have fast cars right now and it is a matter of putting everything together, from not getting into accidents to braking. We need to get on the right track here. We are poised to do that.”
Blaney’s Pocono win last year came with Wood Brothers Racing. His transition to Team Penske “has been pretty easy” despite the recent struggles.
“We aren’t quite there yet,” Blaney said. “Obviously there are a couple cars that are beating everybody week in and week out but I think we are right there. We just need to find that little bit and put a weekend together. I don’t know. As far as driving, I could do better. I make mistakes. I hit the wall. I wrecked myself at Kansas with a winning car. Just have to be a little smarter and I haven’t been that this year. I need to get myself cleaned up a little and if we make some gains on the car we will be right there with being at the top.”
With 13 races to go in the regular season, Blaney said the “stress levels” on his team to win “isn’t very high.”
“We aren’t like, ‘Oh, we haven’t won a race yet. Oh my God what are we going to do?’” Blaney said. “When it happens, it happens. You go out each week and you forget last week. Everyone has forgotten it by Tuesday morning when they go in the race shop and focus on Pocono. We will do the same thing after this race whether we win or finish 30th.”