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Blaney: “I remember every little detail” from Daytona 500 losses

Looking at his results at superspeedway races, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Four of Blaney‘s ten Cup Series victories have come at Daytona or Talladega.

In the Daytona 500, the Team Penske driver has two runner-up finishes and has been agonizingly close to capturing the checkered flag on several other occasions. 

“I feel like I’ve been close to this thing a couple of times. I had a good shot to win it a couple years ago and it just didn’t work out,” said Blaney during Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday. He now aims to be the first driver in over twenty years to follow up a NASCAR Cup Series title with a win in the 500.

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Great Lakes Flooring Ford Mustang

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Great Lakes Flooring Ford Mustang

Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images

“When people ask me that, I mean, that’s the dream deal. You win the championship and then turn right around and win the 500. The last person to do it was Dale Jarrett in 2000, so it’s about time someone maybe does it again. We’ll see. You just try to learn from experiences from previous races here and figure out, ‘Hey, what did we do well to put us in a spot to win? And what decisions did I make that kind of kept us out of victory lane?’ And you just hope to find yourself in those spots again and try to make the right decision, so we’ll see. You just try to be rolling at the end of it and hopefully you’re there, but I’m excited for it. It should be great and try to add the 500 onto RP’s [Roger Penske] Rolex 24 that he got not too long ago here.”

This will be Blaney’s tenth start in ‘The Great American Race,’ and he has been studying footage from recent Cup races at drafting tracks to better prepare himself for this weekend’s effort. 

“Yeah, I look at it all. For example, I watch through the couple weeks leading up to this race I watched last year’s 500. I watched ‘22’s 500. I watch each summer race from here the last couple of years, and then I watch even some Talladega races, just drafting tracks, just trying to see scenarios. I usually look at other places I look at my scenarios and that’s just me and my spotter do that work of like what did we do well, what did we do poorly. Even the finishes here it’s like, what move did this guy make at the end of the race last year and in ‘22 that got him the win, so you try to study all that. 

“You never know. There are a million, trillion situations that can pop up, but you just try to figure out that maybe there are some similarities to this situation that you might find yourself in and you just try to dump all the stuff into your brain that you hope to subconsciously pop up if you are in that position and it worked out for those guys who ended up winning the race.”

Blaney’s many brushes with Daytona 500 victory

Looking back on his many close-calls, Blaney explained that it’s hard to forget how close he’s been.

“I remember it,” he said. “I remember every little detail of how you run second. Drivers obviously remember it. You remember the ones you lose. The ones that sting I feel like you remember those even more. You remember every little detail about them, so, yeah, we’ve run second here twice. I feel like I’ve had a great shot to win it maybe two or three other times and it just hasn’t played out. I try to take those as things like running second or close to winning this thing and not doing it, but I always try to take things from it as, ‘OK, we did a really good job of putting ourselves in a spot to win this race. What can I do and what can we do as a team to try to change the outcome of that?’ Great, you get there, but you’re just gathering data and previous experiences and I think that’s nice. 

“Someone told me that this is my tenth Daytona 500, which is crazy. I’ve been lucky to have some good runs in it, so you just try to get all of that stuff that you’ve learned and try to change it. You do all that stuff and you could get wadded up on lap two and it goes for nothing, but you just try to take all of the info and experience that you can and, hopefully, you’re in a spot to where you can use it. That’s all you ask for is a chance to use this stuff that you’ve learned and apply it, and that’s the biggest thing. Hopefully, we can try to get it done, so we’ll see.”

In 2017, Blaney was the Daytona 500 runner-up to Kurt Busch. In 2018, he led over half the race before finishing seventh. In 2020’s frightening finish where Ryan Newman went airborne, Blaney ended the race just 0.014s short of Denny Hamlin the victory. In 2022, he and Penske team-mate Austin Cindric made contact in the fight to the line with Cindric prevailing as Blaney crashed.

“I look at the two that I vividly remember the most,” he said, reflecting on those ‘almost’ wins. “We ran second in 2017 to Kurt [Busch] and that was a weird one. I couldn’t have done anything different. We got strung out. Guys were running out of gas. I couldn’t get there. But then I look at 2020 when we ran second and me, Denny [Hamlin] and Ryan [Newman] were racing. Yeah, I mean I look back and it’s easy to Monday quarterback the thing and be like, ‘We’ll just make a different move.’

“It’s hard to make those decisions in that moment. You’re trying to process a million thoughts in a millisecond and you have no time to think about them, process them, apply them. You’re doing it off of action and sometimes you make the wrong choice. Obviously, I would have liked to do something different in 2020. I would have liked to choose a different lane. And then in 2022 I had a great shot to win it pushing Austin [Cindric] and, yeah, it was the same thing. I thought I waited until the correct moment to make sure one of us won the race, but I just wish I would have made a different move. 

A new look for the Ford Mustang

This year’s 500 is the third with the ‘Next Gen’ car, but the first with redesigned Ford body, called the Mustang Dark Horse. How will that change things in the 500, where locking bumpers and constant contact are an integral part of the race?

“It’s shaped a little bit differently, but it’s hard to tell,” admitted Blaney. “You can look at it as much as you want. You can test it in the wind tunnel as much as you want. You can make your assumptions, but until we get out there in the Duels tomorrow night it’s hard to tell. Until you actually have somebody pushing you down the frontstretch, pushing you down the backstretch, getting pushed, pushing somebody else, you just don’t know. That’s the best way to test it. I’ve always been a field tester. That’s the best way you’re gonna find your data, but I think it’s hopefully fairly similar. I thought that’s what made the Fords so strong at these speedways was our ability to push and take pushes from obviously fellow Fords, but other manufacturers as well, so hopefully we still have that strength and I think we will.”

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Great Lakes Flooring Ford Mustang

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Great Lakes Flooring Ford Mustang

Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images

This article was originally published by a www.motorsport.com . Read the Original article here. .

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