Ryan Blaney had a strong race car under him this weekend at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. The Team Penske driver was quick on short runs as well as long runs in his No. 12 Ford. Unfortunately, Martin Truex Jr. was much better.
Truex, led all but 36 laps run in Sunday’s First Data 500 en route to his seventh victory of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. By virtue of his win, Truex will advance to the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in a couple of weeks with a shot at his second title in the last three years.
For Blaney, he faded a bit in the end and finished fifth. He was third in both stages run on Sunday and looked like the best driver in the field not named Truex. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as Blaney came into the weekend lacking playoff points. That put him in a hole early on in the Round of 8 standings.
With likely three drivers moving onto Homestead via wins, that leaves one spot open to get to the final round on points. Blaney knows it will be a tough hill to climb to get there on points alone. Sunday, he had a car capable of winning any other time if not for Truex’s dominance.
Blaney, led 145 laps and finished third at Martinsville in last year’s spring race. He was fourth in this past year’s spring event. This was his fifth straight top 10 finish on the .526-mile short track. Unfortunately, despite such a solid day, he’s still -15 in the standings with only two races remaining before Miami.
Luckily, Blaney has been really good at the next track in Texas lately. He came home second there last year and was strong in the spring race before an engine let go.