Blaney's Cup fortunes on the upswing in Phoenix

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Blaney's Cup fortunes on the upswing in Phoenix

NASCAR

Blaney's Cup fortunes on the upswing in Phoenix

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Ryan Blaney said his No. 12 Team Penske group ‘needed that’ following his solid third-place finish at ISM Raceway.

The TicketGuardian 500 pole-sitter won Stage 1 and led 94 laps in Phoenix. Coming into the weekend with three straight finishes of 22nd or worse, Blaney admitted his team needed to clean things up if they were going to contend for a win.

For the most part, Sunday was a success in that department, although he did have to pit twice with loose lug nuts.

Still, the team rebounded, Blaney climbing quickly back into contention, even taking the lead from Aric Almirola with 61 laps to go.

“We were on two tires, and I just held on,” Blaney said after his career-best run at Phoenix. “Held on a lot better than what I thought it was going to, but then when it got to 30 to go, 25 to go, I got kind of tight, and I couldn’t hit [Turns] 3 and 4 anymore.

“Then I ran up on lapped traffic and it absolutely killed me.”

By the time Blaney informed his team his Mustang was getting tight, Kyle Busch had closed the gap significantly. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got underneath in Turns 3 and 4, and the pair ran side-by-side for a full lap before Blaney gave way, losing the top spot with 15 laps to go.

Conceding he was not going to win the race, Blaney went into fuel-save mode and was forced to give up the runner-up spot to Martin Truex Jr. inside the final 10 laps.

“It was a good call to take two tires,” Blaney said of his final pit stop. “I don’t think we would have got higher than third even on four [tires] because it was hard to pass out there.

“I’m proud of this team. We needed that. That’s where we’ve been running all year; it just hasn’t been where we’ve been finishing.”

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