By: Toby Christie, Editor – Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie
FORT WORTH, Texas — In Friday’s opening practice session for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, Ryan Blaney was fastest among eight drivers who eclipsed the pole-winning speed from the spring race at Texas Motor Speedway. Blaney’s lap — 199.933 mph — was just shy of a 200 mile-per-hour average.
Back in the spring, the North Carolina native started second at Texas and dominated the event. In all, Blaney won a stage and led 148 laps. However pit strategy and issues on pit road between stages mired him deep in the field late in the race, and he wasn’t able to rebound. Blaney finished 12th that day.
Fast forward seven months, and the 23-year-old driver — who won at Pocono earlier this year — comes to Texas a championship contender, and he’s looking to avenge that frustrating finish earlier in the season at the 1.5-mile speedway.
“I think we just need to have a solid weekend like we had in the spring race and try to finish it out better,” Blaney said in his media availability Friday. “We got behind there and slid through my box the last pit stop which put us back. We need to have a good, solid race. That is the best thing we can do. Cut down on mistakes like we have the whole playoffs. We haven’t had huge mistakes. We have been consistent and gotten good finishes. We are coming to a track that has been decent for us in the past and the 1.5 mile stuff has been really good for us. ”
While one practice session doesn’t usually tell you too much about a race weekend, it’s encouraging to see that Blaney and his Wood Brothers Racing team have unloaded a car that has a lot of speed. Blaney will be seeking the 100th win for his iconic race team.
A win would also lock Blaney — who is moving to Team Penske in 2018 — into the championship final at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Denny Hamlin, who had a dust up with Chase Elliott in the closing laps at Martinsville, was second-fastest in the practice session followed by Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth.
Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images