Blaney is glad to be back at Pocono

6/1/2018 9:10:48 PM EST

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For the first time in his young career, 24-year old Ryan Blaney arrived at Pocono Raceway this weekend as the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner.

He had to out-run veterans Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in the closing laps to earn that career-making trophy last June. And interestingly enough ... it's those same two competitors Blaney and the rest of the Cup drivers have been chasing this year.

Busch and Harvick have combined for nine wins through 13 races and led an incredible 39 percent of all race laps this year. However, Blaney has been on their heels all season -- his 418 laps out front is best among all the other drivers.

The Team Penske driver led a race high 118 of the 200 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500 only to finish seventh. But he has three top fives and six top 10s this season. The stumbling block has been back-to-back DNFs in the last two races. But Blaney showed up at Pocono smiling, feeling absolutely and understandably confident that this could be the track to straighten things out.

"It is always nice to come back to a place you have had success at and won at," said Blaney, who will drive the No 12 Menards Ford this week. "It gives you confidence as a driver and as a whole team everyone's confidence is up. Obviously you want to repeat that. You want to win every week but when you come back to a place where you have had success that definitely is nice. Especially after the last couple of weeks.

"We have struggled the last couple of races after having fast cars. That is almost like an extra slap in the face when you have fast cars and have problems like that. It just makes it that much worse. The good news is we do have fast cars right now and it is a matter of putting everything together, from not getting into accidents to braking. We need to get on the right track here. We are poised to do that."

Even before Blaney's big win at Pocono last year, the 2.5-mile triangular track had been a good venue for him. He was 11th-place in his two previous starts before winning.

As for any need to "push" himself, the typically laidback Blaney remained committed to his and his team's style of taking things as they come. Yes, the last two weeks have been frustrating, but the ability to forget and keep looking forward is a large part of his success on track and likeability off track. He has always been calm and shown perspective well beyond his years.

"I don't think it will be a sense of relief because the stress level on our team about it isn't very high," Blaney explained. "We aren't like, ‘Oh, we haven't won a race yet. Oh my God what are we going to do?'

"When it happens, it happens. You go out each week and you forget last week. Everyone has forgotten it by Tuesday morning when they go in the race shop and focus on Pocono. We will do the same thing after this race whether we win or finish 30th. We will go focus on Michigan.

"I think that is what our team does really well. As far as leading a bunch of laps and not getting a win, I don't really look at laps led and stuff like that. I just go try to run the best I can and whatever happens, happens. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You just try to learn from your mistakes from the previous race and if you find yourself in those situations at a later date then hopefully you learned from that and try to do better."

Blaney elaborated on his high profile move from the venerable Wood Brothers team -- his win last year was the 99th for the team -- to Team Penske, where he teams with Cup champion Brad Keselowski and perennial title contender Joey Logano driving for one of the newest selections for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, team owner Roger Penske.

A lot is expected and a lot is bestowed at Team Penske, which just collected its 17th Indianapolis 500 win Sunday. All three NASCAR drivers are currently ranked among the top-11 in the Cup standings -- Logano is second, Keselowski is fourth and with the two recent DNFs Blaney is now 11th after leading the championship points early in the season.

"We have one of the best teams in the garage as far as working with each other," Blaney said of the Penske operation. "I think our cars are pretty good to where they are close to where they need to be. We aren't quite there yet. Obviously there are a couple cars that are beating everybody week in and week out but I think we are right there.

"We just need to find that little bit and put a weekend together. I don't know. As far as driving, I could do better. I make mistakes. I hit the wall. I wrecked myself at Kansas with a winning car. Just have to be a little smarter and I haven't been that this year. I need to get myself cleaned up a little and if we make some gains on the car we will be right there with being at the top."

--By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

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WTA Stories

Fri, 22 Jun 2018 14:19:39 EST WTA roundup: American teen Kenin gets signature win of career
Thu, 21 Jun 2018 16:17:20 EST WTA roundup: Strycova upsets Muguruza at Birmingham
Wed, 20 Jun 2018 14:45:41 EST WTA roundup: Svitolina into Nature Valley quarters
Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:46:49 EST WTA roundup: Kvitova downs Konta at Birmingham
Mon, 18 Jun 2018 17:48:38 EST WTA roundup: Rybarikova tops Pliskova at Birmingham in Wimbledon rematch
Sun, 17 Jun 2018 12:50:49 EST WTA roundup: Krunic rallies again to capture first title
Sat, 16 Jun 2018 15:55:53 EST WTA roundup: Krunic stuns top-seeded Vandeweghe in semis
Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:13:44 EST WTA roundup: Vandeweghe survives to reach Libema semis
Thu, 14 Jun 2018 16:16:08 EST WTA roundup: Barty, Konta advance to Nottingham quarters
Wed, 13 Jun 2018 15:53:51 EST WTA Roundup: Vandeweghe reaches quarters at Libema Open
Tue, 12 Jun 2018 16:57:48 EST WTA roundup: Pair of top-5 seeds swept out early in Libema Open
Mon, 11 Jun 2018 14:49:50 EST WTA roundup: Rybarikova, Osaka need three sets to survive at Nottingham
Sat, 09 Jun 2018 11:40:16 EST Halep rallies past Stephens for first Grand Slam title
Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:27:18 EST Halep, Stephens earn spots in French Open final
Wed, 06 Jun 2018 11:00:34 EST Muguruza rolls over Sharapova into French Open semis
Tue, 05 Jun 2018 12:22:26 EST Stephens, Keys win to set up All-American semis at French Open
Tue, 05 Jun 2018 10:56:29 EST Serena Williams 'super excited' after doctor visit
Mon, 04 Jun 2018 15:45:43 EST No. 2 Wozniacki bounced by Kasatkina
Mon, 04 Jun 2018 10:03:34 EST Serena Williams withdraws from French Open with pectoral injury
Sun, 03 Jun 2018 14:24:44 EST Williams sisters eliminated in French Open doubles

LPGA Stories

Fri, 22 Jun 2018 21:52:14 EST Winless Lopez on top in Arkansas
Sun, 17 Jun 2018 18:19:37 EST Ryu prevails at Meijer LPGA Classic for sixth career win
Sat, 16 Jun 2018 19:11:23 EST Pace, Nordqvist grab share of lead at Meijer LPGA Classic
Fri, 15 Jun 2018 20:24:26 EST Ryu seizes control of lead at Meijer LPGA Classic
Thu, 14 Jun 2018 20:13:16 EST Shon, Ryu share lead at Meijer LPGA Classic
Sun, 10 Jun 2018 20:07:41 EST Annie Park shoots 63 to claim first LPGA Tour victory
Sat, 09 Jun 2018 21:27:23 EST Herbin, Kim share ShopRite lead with Round 2 suspended
Fri, 08 Jun 2018 19:27:53 EST Diaz, 43, part of 3-way tie for ShopRite lead
Sun, 03 Jun 2018 21:21:08 EST Jutanugarn recovers to win U.S. Women's Open in playoff
Fri, 01 Jun 2018 21:28:57 EST Smith in control at U.S. Women's Open as rain suspends play
Thu, 31 May 2018 21:31:43 EST Jutanugarn among three atop U.S. Women's Open
Thu, 31 May 2018 14:25:19 EST Ariya Jutanugarn (67) grabs early lead at U.S. Women's Open
Wed, 30 May 2018 13:49:54 EST 13-year-old alternate Pano bails on U.S. Women's Open
Wed, 30 May 2018 12:49:02 EST USGA: Ball played as it lies at soaked U.S. Women's Open
Sun, 27 May 2018 20:15:54 EST Lee earns 4th LPGA win on 22nd birthday
Sat, 26 May 2018 23:29:22 EST Lee surges to two-stroke lead at Volvik Championship
Fri, 25 May 2018 21:25:16 EST Hataoka takes one-shot lead at Volvik Championship
Thu, 24 May 2018 20:14:48 EST Four tied for lead at Volvik Championship
Thu, 24 May 2018 02:27:16 EST LPGA announces new South Korean event
Tue, 22 May 2018 17:07:45 EST LPGA legend Mann dies at 77

WNCAAB Stories

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:42:54 EST Former Tennessee great Charles-Furlow dead at 49
Fri, 06 Apr 2018 23:51:39 EST South Carolina's Wilson earns Wooden Award
Mon, 02 Apr 2018 15:50:53 EST UConn's Stevens skipping final season, entering WNBA draft
Sun, 01 Apr 2018 21:15:27 EST Easter stunner: Irish win title on last-second 3-pointer
Sat, 31 Mar 2018 18:07:32 EST South Carolina's Wilson wins Naismith player of year
Sat, 31 Mar 2018 00:26:56 EST Ogunbowale's shot lifts Notre Dame over UConn in OT thriller
Fri, 30 Mar 2018 21:46:41 EST Mississippi State outlasts Louisville in OT to advance to national championship
Mon, 26 Mar 2018 23:16:06 EST Notre Dame downs Oregon to charge into Final Four
Mon, 26 Mar 2018 23:01:32 EST UConn routs defending champion South Carolina to reach Final Four
Sun, 25 Mar 2018 21:57:47 EST McCowan, Mississippi State outmuscle UCLA to reach Final Four
Sun, 25 Mar 2018 22:04:33 EST Durr scores 18 as Louisville romps into Final Four
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 20:46:48 EST Oregon cruises past Central Michigan to advance to Elite Eight
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 21:11:38 EST Notre Dame edges Texas A&M to make Elite Eight
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 20:52:26 EST Collier paces top-seeded UConn in win over Duke
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 20:57:12 EST No. 2 seed South Carolina pulls away late to top Buffalo
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:34:21 EST NCAA women's roundup: Oregon State stuns Baylor
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:54:01 EST Louisville overpowers Stanford in regional semis
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:40:30 EST UCLA edges Texas to reach Elite Eight
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:42:57 EST Oregon State ends Baylor's 30-game winning streak in Sweet 16 upset
Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:19:07 EST Mississippi State cruises past NC State to advance to Elite Eight

USA Stories

Tue, 19 Jun 2018 16:16:19 EST Report: NFL invited to testify at congressional hearing on sports betting
Mon, 11 Jun 2018 23:10:39 EST Drag racing legend Tom 'The Mongoose' McEwen dead at 81
Mon, 11 Jun 2018 22:49:22 EST Bode Miller's 19-month-old daughter drowns
Mon, 11 Jun 2018 17:10:47 EST N.J. governor signs sports betting into law, wagering to begin Thursday
Sun, 10 Jun 2018 13:25:55 EST Justify expected to race rest of 2018
Sun, 10 Jun 2018 01:43:26 EST Report: Justify worth record $75M value
Sat, 09 Jun 2018 19:34:13 EST Justify wins Belmont Stakes, becomes 13th Triple Crown winner
Fri, 08 Jun 2018 13:35:45 EST Justify has 'smooth' final workout ahead of Belmont
Thu, 07 Jun 2018 22:43:04 EST Sports betting bills sent to N.J. governor for approval
Thu, 07 Jun 2018 16:21:10 EST Justify roaring and ready to claim Triple Crown at Belmont Stakes
Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:03:16 EST Justify impresses in gallop at Belmont Park
Wed, 06 Jun 2018 19:07:05 EST Delaware receives $322K in bets on first day
Wed, 06 Jun 2018 18:07:29 EST Triple Crown hopeful Justify arrives in New York
Tue, 05 Jun 2018 23:01:36 EST WCWS: Florida State sweeps for 1st NCAA title
Tue, 05 Jun 2018 21:28:58 EST Ex-USA Gymnastics CEO pleads 5th at Senate hearing
Tue, 05 Jun 2018 18:51:23 EST Justify seeking Triple Crown from No. 1 post at Belmont
Tue, 05 Jun 2018 10:40:30 EST XFL hires Oliver Luck as commissioner
Mon, 04 Jun 2018 22:10:44 EST WCWS: Seminoles blank Huskies, take 1-0 finals lead
Sun, 03 Jun 2018 21:50:04 EST WCWS: Washington, Florida State reach title series
Fri, 01 Jun 2018 00:43:24 EST WCWS: Oregon routs Arizona State in opener

INDY Stories

Sun, 27 May 2018 17:54:42 EST Power finally claims elusive Indy 500 victory
Sun, 27 May 2018 17:40:48 EST Patrick crashes out of final Indy 500