By: Ashley McCubbin
Since winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the sixth race of the season, it seems the wheels have fallen off a bit for Ryan Blaney with his fifth-place on Saturday at Pocono Raceway marked his first top-five since then.
At the same time, Hendrick Motorsports appears to be full steam ahead in having won the last six straight races (seven with the All-Star race), including a sweep of the top-four at Dover International Speedway.
“That group has figured it out right now and that group has been really strong the past few months,” Blaney told NEWS FROM THE PITS of his competition. “Really, they’ve been strong all year but the past few months, they’ve been really crazy strong the past couple months and it’s obviously shown. We’ve noticed it and if I could tell you what they’ve been doing so differently, I’d tell you and we’d be doing it, but that’s the game that we’re in. teams find something and it’s up to your group to work really hard and try to catch up, and that’s what we’re in right now.”
So what is it going to take to stop the domination? Blaney’s suggestions included Ex-Lax in their coffee, or giving them some raw chicken before the event.
But actually, while HMS picked up another checkered flag on Saturday with Alex Bowman, Blaney believes Team Penske has made some gains over recent weeks, and expects the tide to turn in his favor eventually.
“This sport is a big circle and cycle of teams on top, and other teams finding stuff and catching up, and it just goes round and round,” he commented. “You hope to find it sooner than later. Hopefully we’ll make a step at it here in Pocono.”
Seeing Blaney score a top-five on Saturday was a good step, but not a surprise as the tricky triangle was the sight of his first career victory in 2017. Repeating that feat on Sunday will require a better job of executing behind the wheel and as a team than they have been lately.
“We haven’t executed great, and I can be a big part of that,” he explained. “it’s all a big group effort and the biggest thing is trying to find a little bit of speed in our cars which would make it easier and executing a little more here and there. The driving side, that’s one thing that I think we could clean up. So like I said, it’s all a work in the progress and we’re all in it together, you can always get a little bit better yourself.
“Hopefully it smoothens out this weekend at Pocono; we need a good run because like you said, it’s been a little bit of a downer the last month, but we look forward to the next race and try our best to get it done.”