He and his No. 12 Ford team struggled in the early going, used a two-tire pit strategy to gain traction position and appeared to change his fortunes.
However, the third stage took a turn for the worse when Blaney was penalized for speeding on pit road during a pit stop and then got caught up in an accident on the frontstretch on the next-to-last restart after Tyler Reddick slammed the Turn 4 wall.
The result was a 28th place finish that leaves Blaney, 29, as one of the four drivers lowest in points without a win and in danger of playoff elimination with races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval remaining in the Round of 12.
Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Discount Tire Ford Mustang, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang, AJ Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, Action Industries Chevrolet Camaro, Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing, Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Zane Smith, Front Row Motorsports, Ambetter Health Ford Mustang wreck crash
Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images
“You’re going to find yourself behind at some point in the playoffs, whether it’s in Round 1 or Round 2 or Round 3. You’re going find yourself behind at some point and find a way to make up points and have really good days,” said Blaney, who is 11 points behind Kyle Larson, who currently holds the last playoff transfer spot.
“I feel like I’ve been in this spot before. Heck, I was in this spot in 2019 when I think it was after Dover, I had a mechanical failure, and I was 20-something points out and felt like we were probably going to have to win (a race) to advance. And then we ended up winning Talladega.”
The remaining 2023 schedule offers the possibility of a déjà vu moment for Blaney, but he doesn’t believe his situation is quite as dire this time.
“There are times when you are behind, and you have to run well. We don’t have to win Talladega this weekend. We’re not in that spot,” he said. “You just have to understand you’re going to have these moments and it’s all about how you respond to them after a bad week.
“You still have two weeks to make it up, right? It’s just the way it goes sometimes. You have to be prepared to either protect your points or fight from below the cutline – you’re going to have both.
“It’s not always going to go great. You’re going to have to manage some down times.”
The good news for Blaney is in his relatively short Cup career, among his eight carer wins are two at Talladega and one at the Charlotte Roval.
He was runner up at the spring race at Talladega this season and he and his Penske teammates have typically performed well on superspeedway races of late.
“I was bummed out after Texas. It was 100-percent my fault I sped on pit road and put us back in the pack,” Blaney said. “And the snowball effect is, we get in a wreck.
“So, you’re hard on yourself but you pick yourself up quickly and remember you have two more of these things where you can make up for it. A short-term memory is really good to have in these playoffs.
“It’s easy to dwell on that stuff but you have to realize there is a race the next week and you have to be mentally ready for it and show what you’re made of. We’re still not out of it.”