By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Two tires, seven laps and a 56-race winless NASCAR Cup Series streak to snap. Ryan Blaney had it all on the line on Monday’s final restart at Dover Motor Speedway. The only man in the way was Martin Truex Jr.
Following a late caution on lap 388 of 400, the handful of lead-lap cars hit pit road, showcasing a variety of strategies at play.
For Blaney and Team Penske crew chief Jonathan Hassler, it was a call for two tires that would place driver No. 12 on the front row with Truex’s identical call.
“It was either two calls: Either stay out or take 2 tires,” Blaney said. “Four tires has beaten us before and there were so few cars on the lead lap, so let’s just take two.
“I almost stayed out but I don’t know if that would have won me the race or not. Two was a good call, it put us on the front row. Gave us a shot.”
A shot it was. Blaney and Truex ran side-by-side in the ensuing couple laps, opening an opportunity for the four fresh tires of third-place Ross Chastain to slip by into second.
Settling for third, Blaney knew there were no inches left on the table between himself and race-winning Truex.
“I can’t drive any deeper into Turn 3 without wrecking us,” he said. “I think it was close, we were just racing hard. Gosh, we raced the heck out of each other for a lap-and-a-half and never touched each other. That’s what it’s all about. I think it was close, you guys probably had a better look at it than I did.”
A 56-race winless streak, dating back to August 2021, extended to 57.
“I don’t ever think of the winless streak unless you all bring it up,” he said. “I just want to win every race.”
Still, running top three nearly all day was a win in itself. Not only was it his first top-10 finish at Dover since 2018, but it was only his third overall and his first top five in 13 starts at the Monster Mile.
Meanwhile, his Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Joey Logano ended with a 26th and a crash DNF of 31st.
“Not only last year did we struggle, [we’ve] struggled here for the last four or five years just as an organization,” he said. “We just haven’t been able to hit it. We worked super hard this offseason to be better at Dover and we definitely did that. I have to be proud of the improvements. Even though you don’t win the race, you have to be proud of solid runs.
“It’s an encouraging day from our struggles in previous years here. Today is a very proud effort to run top three all day long.”