Ryan Blaney tired of being ‘bottom of the totem pole’ at Team Penske

Ryan Blaney
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CONCORD, N.C. — While Ryan Blaney says he’s not treated like it by his Team Penske peers, he knows how his performance output has compared to his teammates over the last few years.

“I look back and I’ve been the third best performing driver since ’16,” Blaney said during a media event Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “You don’t want to be that guy. That’s something I want to change really bad.”

Blaney, who is in the last year of his contract with the team, admitted being “the last guy” can “put your job in jeopardy.”

In his first four full-time Cup seasons, two with the Penske-aligned Wood Brothers Racing before transitioning to Penske’s No. 12 car, Blaney has three wins and 26 top fives. His wins have come at a pace of one a year starting in 2017, with two earned in dramatic last-lap fashion on the Charlotte Roval and last season at Talladega.

“You don’t want to be a one-win a year guy,” Blaney said. “People tell me that it’s better than no wins a year. You want to be level or above your teammates. That’s just a competitor thing.”

Enter Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski had 13 wins and 56 top fives in the last four seasons, while Logano claimed nine wins, 51 top fives and the 2018 Cup championship.

“I don’t want to be the bottom of the totem pole,” Blaney said. “I’m not treated like that. I’m not saying that. I get everything those guys get. … Joey and Brad are great. They’re both champions. I want to be better than those guys, that’s obviously the goal. It’s a personal thing. I need to get better.”

He hopes Team Penske’s major crew chief/crew shakeup announced earlier this month will do a lot toward making that a reality.

The 26-year-old driver enters his fifth full-time Cup season paired with crew chief Todd Gordon, who moves over to the No. 12 after eight years working on the No. 22. Seven of those were spent with Logano behind the wheel.

Blaney’s previous crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, is now paired with Keselowski on the No. 2 Ford and Keselowski’s former crew chief, Paul Wolfe, is paired with Logano.

“I wouldn’t say I needed a kick in the ass,” Blaney said of the shakeup. “I feel like when things like that happen, they happen so abruptly and it’s a big change for everybody. It kind of opens some people’s eyes. ‘Oh, ok we weren’t doing as good as we thought. We need to be better.’ They’re not afraid to make a change. It might get everyone hungry. I want to show I can do this with a new person. … Change can be good. If you’re going to make change, don’t make a little change. I’m a big fan of big overhauls. I think it will give everyone a big jolt of energy. We’ll find out in about a month.”

Gordon has proven what he can do with a young driver who has struggled to produce consistent success.

When Logano arrived at Team Penske in 2013 at the age of 23, he brought with him a four-year record at Joe Gibbs Racing that saw him win twice, in his first and final years with the team.

While they only won once in 2013, over the next three years Logano and Gordon claimed 14 victories. After missing the playoffs in 2017, they won five times over the last two seasons and won the 2018 title.

“Working with someone new is going to challenge me more to learn him and you kind of combine your two knowledges,” Blaney said. “You have your own language, right? You mesh them together and you hopefully understand and work on and both make sure you understand.”

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Texas Truck race results: Carson Hocevar scores first series win

Texas Truck race results
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Carson Hocevar was in front after the leaders crashed in overtime and scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Texas Truck race results

Rookie Nick Sanchez, who led 168 of the 172-lap race, dueled reigning series champion Zane Smith on the last lap when Sanchez’s truck hit Smith’s. As Sanchez tried to regain control of his vehicle, he was hit from behind by Hocevar. That contact sent Sanchez into Smith. Christian Eckes also was collected.

Hocevar’s first win came in his 59th series start.

Chase Purdy placed second. Stewart Friesen finished third. Ty Majeski was fourth. Jake Garcia completed the top five.


Richmond Xfinity results, driver points


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith won a stage, led a race-high 83 laps and rallied late to score his first career Xfinity win Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

MORE: Richmond Xfinity results

MORE: Xfinity points after Richmond race

John Hunter Nemechek placed second. The rest of the top five featured Josh Berry, Kaz Grala and Cole Custer. Austin Hill, who had won three of the first six races of the season, placed ninth.

Hill continues to lead the points. He has a 12-point advantage on Riley Herbst and an 18-point lead on Nemechek heading into the next series race in two weeks at Martinsville.

Chandler Smith scores first career Xfinity win with Richmond victory


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith held off John Hunter Nemechek to win his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

The 20-year-old Smith took the lead with 12 laps to go and withstood a restart with six laps to go to earn the victory for Kaulig Racing.

MORE: Richmond race results, driver points

His victory came about a month after being passed for the lead with two laps to go at Las Vegas and finishing third day.

“It obviously wasn’t in God’s works for me that and I was fine with that, I was good with that,” said Smith, who will make his Cup debut Sunday. “I knew there was something bigger and better that He was playing it out for me and I just had to be faithful and keep on trucking. Here’s proof of it.”

Nemechek was second. Josh Berry placed third and was followed by Kaz Grala and Cole Custer.

Justin Allgaier finished 13th to win the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

“Today was weird because of how we finished,” Allgaier said. “Given the same circumstances a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, 13th wasn’t going to win the Dash 4 Cash but today it did.”

Stage 1 winner: Chandler Smith

Stage 2 winner: Josh Berry

Who had a good race: A caution caught Justin Allgaier a lap down, ending his chances for a top-five finish but he was able to bounce back and win the Dash 4 Cash for a fifth time. … Derek Kraus finished 10th in his Xfinity debut. … Chris Hacker placed 14th in his Xfinity debut.

Who had a bad race: Riley Herbst had his career-long streak of top-10 finishes snapped after nine races. He placed 23rd after he was hit and spun late in the race.

Notable: This is the second time in the last four races that there has been a first-time series winner. Sammy Smith scored his first series win last month at Phoenix.

Next: The series is off until April 15 at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain move on from COTA incident


RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Suarez says he’s been trying to “work on myself” after conflicts with teammate Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman last weekend at COTA but noted that if NASCAR doesn’t make adjustments with restarts on road courses, he’ll change his driving style.

NASCAR fined Suarez $50,000 on Wednesday for hitting another vehicle on pit road after the race. Suarez hit Chastain’s car at pit entrance and hit the back of Bowman’s car while they were both on pit road.

MORE: Cup starting lineup at Richmond 

“I’ve been trying to work on myself mostly during the week, trying to clear my mind and reset,” Suarez said Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “My team, we’re good. I think the issue wasn’t really with one driver. I feel like it’s more as an industry, how we are allowing to have those kind of bump-and-run restarts at the end of the races at road courses.

“I don’t think that’s right.”

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to go by. Suarez finished 27th.

Chastain said he and Suarez have moved on from last week’s incident after talking this week.

“Every household on this earth has their moments of arguments and we had ours,” Chastain said Saturday.

“We’re family. We’re in the same house, right. It’s in our name. It’s Trackhouse. No matter what, we all think we have to put that behind and know that moving forward we’re brothers. … We’re brothers at Trackhouse and we’re going to be stronger together.”

Suarez is among the number of drivers who have raised concerns about the rough driving in the series. The Next Gen car is more durable and can take more hits — as evident in the Clash at the Coliseum to start the year when drivers barreled into the back of cars in the corners to slow down.

Add the emphasis of winning, less respect for one another and the result is the type of racing on display at the end of the race at Circuit of the Americas, as drivers charged down a long straightaway before braking hard for a tight turn and making contact with one another.

So, what can be done?

“I don’t have the answers to that,” Suarez said. “All I know is that NASCAR is working toward trying to make a better solution for some of these restarts. It doesn’t look right. This sport looks embarrassing.

“That’s not real. Just go into the corner and bump three cars to push people out of that way, that’s not real. We know that. That’s how some people got top fives and top 10s last week and some of the guys that were fast, like myself, finished 27th.

“If NASCAR does something about it, that’s amazing. If they don’t I’ll just join the party.”