Four years ago, young Ryan Blaney was in the midst of his second season driving the famous Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 machine. He had yet to win a NASCAR Cup Series race and was searching for a victory to secure job security.
Enter Pocono in June of 2017.
Blaney had a solid car all weekend and was running towards the front for most of the race. On a restart with around 10 laps remaining, Blaney snagged the lead from Kyle Busch and held off “The Closer” in Kevin Harvick to win his first race in NASCAR’s premier series.
The only catch? Neither could Blaney’s Crew Chief Jeremy Bullins nor spotter Josh Williams could hear the driver throughout the race.
“Pocono has a special place in my heart,” Blaney said. “I get those memories back every time I drive through the tunnel”.
Since that victory four years ago, Blaney’s picked up four more victories, including one earlier this season at Atlanta in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. However, things have been a bit tougher for Blaney since his win back in March. He hasn’t finished a race higher than 10th since the Goodyear 400 at Darlington on May 9.
“It’s kind of been a struggle,” Blaney said. “We haven’t been where we need to be speed-wise and we haven’t executed great, and I’m part of that. It’s a big group effort, but the biggest thing is trying to find a little bit of speed in our cars”.
However, nobody’s been able to have enough speed to keep up with Hendrick Motorsports cars. HMS-owned cars have won each of the last five points-paying races, including the last three races being won by Kyle Larson.
“That group has got it figured it out right now,” Blaney said. “If I could tell you today what they’re doing a lot better than everyone else, we’d be doing it…….. I think we’ve made some gains on them, but we still have got to keep working”.
That being said, each race weekend brings up new opportunities. With two Cup Series races this weekend, that’ll certainly be the case for Ryan Blaney this weekend. He’ll search for his 6th career Cup Series win on Saturday and will look to become just the fourth multi-winner in 2021.
“We’re getting down to coming to the end of the regular season,” Blaney said. “Pocono’s a great place to get some stage points and win races here in back-to-back days”.
The first Cup Series race of the Pocono Speedway Doubleheader begins at approximately 3pm on Saturday with coverage on NBCSN. The Camping World Truck Series races earlier Saturday afternoon with a 12pm start time on FS1.