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“Not Close”: Ryan Blaney Shuts Down ‘Panic Button’ Rumors Despite Ford’s Alarming Slump

Published 04/11/2024, 12:56 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

After Ford released its sleek new Mustang Dark Horse body at the end of last year, expectations were hiked. Besides internal changes like aerodynamic technology, the wind tunnel, and others, the visual look was appealing too. But as soon as 2024 came on our windshield, the defects began to show.

Chevrolet stormed through the first three races, after which Denny Hamlin brought Toyota into the scene. After Martinsville, these two OEMs dominate the winners’ charts, while Ford is nowhere to be seen. But Ryan Blaney, the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang driver, chooses to relax.

Ryan Blaney pins hope to time

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After Ryan Blaney salvaged a 5th place finish in Phoenix, Kevin Harvick praised him. The new short track package debuted on the desert track, and the Toyotas dominated. Blaney led the Ford pack, as he had done in Las Vegas. Harvick claimed that Blaney was at the spearhead of the Ford group right now.

Yet the Ford Dark Horse is yet to gallop to its season’s first checkered flag. Currently, all Ford teams are undergoing a period of adjustment with their new car body. Ryan Blaney is the only one standing out, keeping up the momentum since last year’s Cup title win.

He was asked about when would be the right time to start worrying about a winless drought. Blaney answered in an optimistic tone. “I’m kind of caught up right now, like where we want to be right now. But I try not to press the panic button on that side because it is a long year, and you have a lot of things to learn.”

Drawing a parallel with last year’s tension-packed playoff period, Ryan Blaney toned down the stress factor. He said time is on his side, “I mean, we get into the late summer, and you’re still struggling and yeah, you need to figure something out quickly. But right now, there’s still plenty of time. So you just obviously wanna be running a little bit better, but it’s definitely not close to the panic button.”

Ryan Blaney more or less stands alone as the best-performing Ford driver right now. And he believes there is scope for improvement.

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Baby steps will go a long way

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Ryan Blaney has four top-five positions already this year. His teammate Joey Logano fetched a lone Ford runner-up finish in Richmond, while Chris Buescher scored a podium spot in Phoenix. Yet, Ford’s performance this season has been pretty inconsistent and bland in front of other manufacturers. However, Blaney believes there is room for growth in the Ford Mustang’s performance as the season progresses.

“We did a lot of hard work in the winter trying to figure out, ‘OK, where’s the maximum potential of this new car,’ and we just haven’t quite hit that yet, and we’re working on it”, Blaney said. “There’s a handful of things I think we can improve on, but they’re all little. Little things go a long way, so I think we’re close as a group. It’s just a matter of ironing out a few things — car, engine — and I think we’ll be right there.”

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With the grace of Ryan Blaney’s talent and meticulous hard work, Ford might snatch some trophies soon.

Read More: Ford’s Martinsville Eye-Sore, Ryan Blaney Drops a 4-Word Verdict on the Disappointing ‘Half Mile of Mayhem’ Failure

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Written by:

Sumedha Mukherjee

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Sumedha Mukherjee is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports who is known for her in-depth track analysis as well as her lifestyle coverage of Cup drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Inspired by the Kiwi's journey so far, Sumedha has also written pieces on Shane Van Gisbergen, predicting how the Supercars Champion would do in the new and unfamiliar American setting. Pairing her research skills with her vast experience as a writer, Sumedha creates stories her readers can easily get lost in.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh