Is Ryan Blaney a Favorite to Make It Far in the Playoffs?

Published 09/09/2021, 1:08 PM EDT
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – AUGUST 30: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on August 30, 2019 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)


In the build-up to the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Ryan Blaney was in fine form. So, many wondered whether he would be able to keep up the momentum throughout the following 10 races. The Team Penske driver won the final two races of the regular season and established himself as a threat.

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Blaney said, “Momentum and confidence are something that we have right now (with) the 12 group because obviously, the last couple of weekends, it really helps get that rolling.

“It’s good for everybody, not only for the driver but for the team as well when they have a lot of confidence in themselves and their abilities and you can believe that you can do it and make a strong run at the championship. That’s part of the game.”

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Truthfully speaking, a nice streak of good performances before the Playoffs can boost a driver’s confidence. However, that confidence doesn’t necessarily translate into good performances during the Playoffs themselves. This is largely because the tracks and horsepower levels are far different from before.

What lies ahead for Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney?

Coming to Blaney, he has an advantage at tracks like Michigan and Daytona. On the other hand, the likes of Darlington and Richmond offer a tougher challenge.

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At Darlington, he and many Playoff drivers struggled and he could only muster a 22nd-place finish. Admittedly, he does not have high hopes for Saturday’s race at Richmond. He said, “Richmond is not a place we’ve run spectacular at in the past. At Richmond, we ran top five in the first stage and kind of got away from the handling and ended up running 11th and having just a good solid day there.”

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 12: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Peak Ford, speaks with the media during the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Despite this, there is every chance of the #12 driver advancing to the next round, barring something dramatic. This is largely thanks to a healthy buffer built over his rivals in the last eight races. It also helped that he recorded high finishes on various tracks like the Indianapolis road course, New Hampshire and Atlanta.

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Another point in his favor is the fact that he is regarded as one of the best defensive drivers on restarts. Only teammate Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin score higher than him. The bad news is that his green-flag pit cycles are regarded as his team’s biggest weakness. For now, all he needs to do is put his head down and focus on the remaining 11 Playoff spots.

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Dhruv George

12001 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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