Dr. Diandra: Why hasn’t Ryan Blaney won in 2022?

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Ryan Blaney is the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to reach the playoffs without a win. With three races left to go in the season, he’s still winless.


The good

The winless mystery is deepened by the fact that Blaney is having a good year by most standard metrics.

Blaney leads the Cup Series in stage wins with eight. Those wins span Phoenix in March to last week at Las Vegas. They include superspeedways, intermediate tracks, road courses and short tracks.

The No. 12 car has speed. Blaney’s three poles tie (with five other drivers) for second place. Christopher Bell leads with four. NASCAR’s loop data ranks Blaney second for green-flag speed over the season, behind only Ross Chastain.

Blaney’s 527 laps led puts him seventh in this metric. He has led laps in 24 of the 33 races thus far.

In addition:

  • Blaney ranks second in average running position at 12.2.
  • He ties with Chastain for third in average finish position (14.2)
  • He ties with Joey Logano for fourth in average starting position (10.5)
  • His 15 top-10 finishes tie him (with four other drivers) for fifth place.
  • He’s come close to winning: He lost the fall Talladega race to Chase Elliott by only 0.046 of a second.

I summed up Blaney’s 2021 and 2022 finishes in the graph below. Wins are in maroon, second- through fifth-place finishes in dark blue, etc.

A stacked vertical bar chart comparing Ryan Blaney's finishes in 2021 to those from 2022

Blaney has the same number of top 10s this year as last. But last year included three wins.

He does have more finishes of 15th or worse. For example, In 2021, he had seven finishes worse than 20th. This year, he has 13.

The usual reasons don’t apply

The common factors that explain why other drivers didn’t make the playoffs or have fallen out don’t apply to Blaney.

He and his team have only four penalties this year, the lowest of any full-time driver. Two of the four (speeding and too many crew over the wall at Bristol) were intentional.

In a year with 183 DNFs, the No. 22 team has only three: spring Las Vegas, Charlotte and Pocono. Fellow playoff drivers Denny Hamlin and William Byron each have double that number.

Blaney ranks 21st for involvement in caution-causing accidents or spins with nine accidents and two spins. That’s compared to Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Kyle Busch, who have 17 total accidents and spins each.

Why Blaney isn’t winning races

Blaney’s challenges fall into three categories not obvious from standard stats: accidents and spins that didn’t cause cautions, on-track tire issues and pit road problems.

Non-caution-causing contact affected Blaney in five additional races. For example, Blaney hit the wall on the final lap of the spring Atlanta race while running in the top three. He finished 17th after starting second and posting an average running position of 8.1.

He also experienced contact at Sonoma, the Indy road course, the fall Darlington race and the Roval.

On-track tire issues affected Blaney four times this year — three times while running in the top five.

  • A left-rear tire blew at Gateway while Blaney was running third.
  • He lost a tire at Pocono while running fifth.
  • A right-front tire blew at Bristol while Blaney was again running fifth. He had a flat right rear later in the race.

Pit road issues continue to introduce hindrances.

  • At Fontana, the team had three slow pit stops. Two dropped Blaney from third to 16th. The third slow stop dropped him from second to ninth.
  • A nut came loose from a tire-changer’s gun at Phoenix, again dropping Blaney from second to ninth.
  • A bad pit stop at the spring Atlanta race required an unscheduled additional pitstop.
  • Blaney stalled his car leaving pit road at Indy.
  • At both fall Darlington and fall Kansas, the No. 12 had to re-pit to tighten loose wheels.
  • After changing a flat right-front tire at Bristol, the new left-rear wheel came off as Blaney left his pit box. As a result, crew chief Jonathan Hassler won’t be back on the box until Martinsville.

And, at the fall Talladega race, Blaney’s radio had to be repaired on pit road immediately before the green flag.

I know: A radio repair. Really?


Racing: A physical and mental challenge

Confidence is one of the most important tools in a driver’s arsenal.

A driver needs confidence in how deep he can drive into a turn and know the car will stick. Confidence he — and the driver next to him — can make a move without the car spinning out.

He needs to be certain that, when he comes onto pit road, all four wheels will come off the car without delay and all four of their replacements will stay on when he leaves. And that he won’t be sitting on pit road while everyone else makes parade laps because his radio isn’t working.

Out of Blaney’s 33 races, only 12 have not involved accidents, spins, penalties, tire issues or pit road problems. And no, I’m not including the radio in that count.

Some of these problems arise from having a new car — any new car. Uncertainty would be an issue even if the Next Gen were the Platonic ideal of a racecar. Think about the moment of panic when a hard rain hits and you’re in a rental car trying to locate the wiper switch without taking your eyes off the road.

The data suggest to me that the best way to optimize for a Blaney win is for the team to double down on the things it has control over so that the driver is as confident as possible in pushing the car.

NASCAR fines Daniel Suarez $50,000 for pit road incident


NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 for running into the cars of Alex Bowman and teammate Ross Chastain on pit road after last weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas.

Suarez was upset after a potential top-five finish was lost in an incident in overtime.

MORE: Appeals Panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers 

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. 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 drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“It’s uncharacteristic of Daniel,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s no excuse for what happened.”

Appeals panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers


Alex Bowman is back leading the points after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team Wednesday. The Appeals Panel also rescinded the 10-point playoff to each Hendrick driver and team.

The Appeals Panel found that Hendrick violated the rule by modifying the hood louvers on the cars of Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry at Phoenix. The louvers were taken after practice that weekend.

The Appeals Panel kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief: Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris and Rudy Fugle. All four sat out the past two races, meaning they’ll miss this weekend’s race at Richmond and next weekend’s race on the dirt at Bristol before returning the following weekend at Martinsville.

The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.

Bowman had been 16th in the standings with the 100-point penalty. He now has a 15-point lead on Ross Chastain after getting all those points back.

Byron goes from 22nd to third after getting his points back. He’s 29 points behind Bowman, 14 points behind Chastain and five points ahead of Kyle Busch. Byron also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Larson goes from 27th to ninth with getting his points back.

“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond (Raceway).”

NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.

“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”

The panelists on the appeal were former driver Bill Lester, Kelly Housby and Dixon Johnston.

Here is the updated points

1. Alex Bowman       226 points

2. Ross Chastain      211

3. William Byron       197

4. Kyle Busch           192

5. Joey Logano        186

6. Kevin Harvick       186

7. Christopher Bell   184

8. Ryan Blaney         177

9. Kyle Larson          170

10. Austin Cindric     166

11. Martin Truex Jr.   165

12. Brad Keselowski 162

13. Tyler Reddick       161

14. Denny Hamlin      161

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 159

16. Chris Buescher     157

17. Daniel Suárez        144

18. Corey LaJoie         139

19. Michael McDowell 125

20. Ty Gibbs                 118

21. Bubba Wallace      103

22. AJ Allmendinger    103

23. Erik Jones                99

24. Chase Briscoe         96

25. Todd Gilliland          95

26. Austin Dillon            93

27. Noah Gragson        86

28. Aric Almirola            70

29. Ryan Preece           69

30. Harrison Burton      66

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 1st
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.