Racing misfortune bit Ryan Blaney for the second consecutive week Sunday afternoon.
Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang was one of the best in the Auto Club 400, and he led the race’s second-most laps with 54. Dominating Stage 2 by leading 50 of its 60 laps, Blaney was in contention again for a possible race win if not top-five finish when he had to pit with three laps to go.
Blaney reported a vibration with five laps to go that eventually sent him to pit road. It turned out to be a corded tire that resulted in a 19th-place finish.
“Racing happens,” said Blaney. “Just corded a right rear [tire] there at the end and gave up a good finish.”
Beaten off pit road by Jimmie Johnson and Bowman to start the final stage, Blaney led just one additional lap in the race. But he stayed within the top five and cycled to the second position with 32 laps to go after the race’s final round of green-flag pit stops.
But Bowman kept extending his lead on Blaney, from three seconds to over 8s by the time Blaney complained about the vibration. Ironically, a week ago in Las Vegas, Blaney was leading Bowman when a caution with six laps to go led to their teams being in the unenviable position of deciding whether to pit or not — which they both did, and finished outside the top 10.
“Just lost the lead and they got his (Bowman’s) better; I just kind of got too loose at the end there,” said Blaney. “But we got swallowed up on the restart and had to drive all the way back up there. So, just that one didn’t work out in our favor, but (we had a) really fast Body Armor Ford Mustang. Just unfortunate end to the day. Again.”
On the bright side, Blaney remains the NASCAR Cup Series point leader. It is the first time in his career that Blaney has led the standings for more than one week.