Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney has watched both his teammates – Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski – celebrate in Victory Lane multiple times this season. But the popular 25-year old driver of the team’s No. 12 Ford should feel plenty optimistic heading into Daytona.
The 2.5-mile track has been a positive entry on the resume of his four-year fulltime career with multiple close-calls in scoring that first win on the iconic track.
He finished runner-up in the 2017 Daytona 500 – by a mere blink-of-the-eye .228-seconds to Kurt Busch. And after winning one of the two Daytona 500 Duel qualifying races, he answered the effort leading a race best 118 laps in 2018 – only to finish seventh after being collected in an accident in the final laps.
This year, he was again involved an accident – only 10 laps from the scheduled checkered flag – and finished 31st. So Blaney arrives at the beach, hoping to extend some of his better luck 2019 showings.
He is on a run of three straight top-10 finishes, including a sixth place at Chicago. He has finished a season-best third, three times including two weeks ago at Sonoma, Calif., and is ranked 10th in the championship standings, only 10 points behind ninth place Alex Bowman, last week’s Chicago winner.
The new technical package – a tapered spacer as opposed to the traditional restrictor plate – will be used for the first time since 1988 at the track. But Blaney, who started seventh and finished 15th at Talladega using the new package earlier this season, seemed optimistic that teams will be in better shape this go-round.
“Obviously, they are different kind of race tracks a little bit in their own ways and I think teams will go to Daytona with a little different mindset of what they had at Talladega,’’ Blaney said. “Just trying to figure it out. I think it will be a good race. I thought Talladega was a pretty good race and I think it will get better as teams start to understand the package.’’
“It’s a race I look forward to every year,’’ Blaney added.