BRISTOL, Tenn. – He may be the lone Team Penske driver who has yet to visit victory lane this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but Ryan Blaney isn’t feeling the heat at all.
He’s focused forward and focused on converting his early-season pace into the wins he feels his team deserves.
Blaney said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway that there’s “no pressure” as far as he’s concerned, even though both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are locked into the Cup Series playoffs by virtue of their triumphs through the first seven races of the Cup Series season.
“I don’t feel pressure at all,” Blaney told SPEED SPORT. “Yeah, you want to be part of the group, but we have the ability to do it and it’s just a matter of getting it done. Everybody knows that. My whole team knows, all of Penske knows and all of the competition knows that we’ve been one of the best cars all year. Yeah, you still hate to have a zero in that column even though it’s still really early in the year, but, no, it doesn’t bother me at all.
“Honestly, the pressure thing … I used to let get to me a handful of years ago, and then I realized that it doesn’t help you, so you just try to stay pressure free – no matter how good or bad things are or how things look,” Blaney continued. “There’s no pressure just because Brad and Joey have won. You just try to focus on your deal and what you need to do to try to get your team in victory lane and help your teammates and your team the best you can. I’m just trying to overlook all that stuff and focus ahead.”
It’s been feast or famine for Blaney this year. He has three top-five finishes, but he also has four finishes of 22nd or worse, including a crash in the Daytona 500 and an overheating retirement at Texas.
That’s left Blaney frustrated at times, even though he’s tried to put it out of his mind.
“There are moments you get frustrated at it,” Blaney admitted, referencing his bad luck. “You just wish stuff would stop happening. We had that run there of really good finishes, where we finished where we had been running. I wouldn’t say it’s relieving, but it was nice to finally actually not have anything go wrong in those races, and then you look at last week leading the race and a part falls off and we end up blowing up. That part is frustrating.
“I’m (just) tired of being in spots with a chance to win and then dumb luck happens and it just gets taken all away from you,” Blaney added. “That part gets frustrating, but I’m really only frustrated for 10 minutes after the deal happens. After that, you move on and figure out what you can do to prevent stuff from like that happening and then you focus on the next week because there’s nothing you can do about it after something like that happens. You just try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Despite his goose-egg in the win column to this point, Blaney still firmly believes that Team Penske is seated atop the current pecking order in the Cup Series garage, alongside Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We’re at the top of our game and I think our cars are the fastest ones out there – us and the Gibbs guys seem to be the class of the field right now – but it all goes full circle,” Blaney noted. “You’ll have slumps and you’ll have good times, and you just try to capitalize on the good times.
“I think we’ll be in contention to win all year. Our team certainly is capable of that, but when we have so much speed right now as a whole group, we definitely want to capitalize on it,” he added. “You want to rack them up as much as you can, as quick as you can and when you can. It stinks sometimes when you can’t get them as fast as you want to, but I’d rather have fast cars and things happening when we’re in contention to win races than be running 15th, scratching our heads and wondering where the speed is at. They’re both frustrating, but I’d rather be in this position, with fast cars and running up front.
“You just hope the problems stop and you can figure out a way to pull through at the end of one of these races.”
Blaney qualified third for Sunday’s Food City 500. He dominated the early stages of last season’s spring race at Bristol before a crash collected him from the race lead and bounced him from contention.