No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 7th
Stage 2: 5th
Laps Completed: 312/312
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 7th (-2679)
A valiant effort by Ryan Blaney and No. 12 DEX Imaging team came up just short of qualifying for the Championship 4 next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The High Point, N.C. native ran inside the top-five for most of the day but was in a must-win situation to keep his championship hopes alive. A late-race caution eight laps from the finish set up a three-lap dash to the checkered flag with Blaney restarting second. Try as he might, the driver of the DEX Imaging Ford couldn’t find a way around Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch settling for a third-place finish. He enters the final race of the 2019 season seventh in NASCAR Cup Series standings, 18 points behind sixth-place Kyle Larson.
Blaney started 10th and reported early the balance of his Ford Mustang was tight firing off and got looser on entry as the run progressed. He passed Erik Jones ninth and eventually got around Kurt Busch for eighth on lap 52. On lap 68, just seven laps from the conclusion of Stage 1 the first caution of the day flew. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins pitted for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. Restarting 11th, Blaney sliced his way through traffic to bring home a seventh place in Stage 1. He stayed out under the stage caution and restarted sixth on lap 82.
Stage 2 ran caution-free and Blaney said the balance on the DEX Imaging Ford was improved over the first run, yet he needed more rear security, especially off Turn 2. He passed Hamlin and Kevin Harvick on the restart to move his up to fourth position. Later in the run Hamlin passed Blaney for fourth position. From there Blaney fell in line and finished fifth when the stage concluded on lap 150. He pitted during the stage caution for four tires and additional air pressure adjustments to the No. 12 Ford and restarted fifth when the race went green.
As laps ticked off in the run, Blaney reported that the overall balance of his Ford Mustang had improved but soon it would begin to lose front turn. He passed teammate Joey Logano for third on lap 203 and set his sights on leader Hamlin and second-place Kyle Busch. Blaney made a scheduled stop under green on lap 244 for four tires and another air pressure adjustment. When the cycle of green flag pit stops was complete, he was back in third position.
The final caution on lap 304, just eight laps from the conclusion of the event, gave Blaney one last chance to win. He pitted for two right-side tires. Quick work by the DEX Imaging team got gave him second position for the final restart.
Blaney started inside Hamlin for the three-lap dash to the finish. But try as he might, Blaney simply couldn’t pass Hamlin for the lead or hold off Busch for second, forcing him to settle for third at the checkered flag. This was Blaney’s 11th top-five finish of 2019.
Quote: “I thought we got better all day with our DEX Imaging Ford. We did a good job of getting better on long runs all day and the short runs too. We passed a couple cars we were behind the first couple runs, but nowhere near in the league, especially the No. 11 (Hamlin). I’m proud of our group not only for today but for the entire playoff runs. It stinks we didn’t make it, but it was a solid day.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!