Ryan Blaney had “no clue” there was a drainage ditch – or whatever it was – that he ran over while on the apron challenging for the lead on the last lap at Kentucky Speedway.
“I had a small idea it was there, I didn’t know it was going to be that big,” said Blaney. “I thought it was just a little rough spot, you know you see it kind of marked up a little bit, but I didn’t realize – it had all four wheels off the ground.
“I hit the chip. It bounced the rear wheels off the ground. I didn’t realize it was going to be that big. I thought a little something was going to be there; I just didn’t realize it was going to be that big.”
Blaney went airborne from the contact and shot back up the racetrack, bouncing off Kevin Harvick. The touch left Harvick, who finished fourth, with a tire rub, and Blaney faded to a sixth-place finish.
“Someone rang the horn when I was mid-jump, and I was just hanging on,” said Blaney. “I kicked right, and I thought I was going to go right in front of the field, but luckily we were able to halfway straighten it out.”
The move was the result of a four-wide battle for the lead coming to the white flag. Blaney was the bottom inside Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Cole Custer. The rookie Custer ended up clearing the field in Turn 1 and drove away to the win.
“We were battling for the lead coming to the white, I was just trying to get away from those three guys,” Blaney explained. “I was just trying to get some room between us and not get side-drafted or slowed down. I couldn’t necessarily see them, but I was told I was bottom four and that was for the lead, so obviously, I’m just going to get away from him as much as possible because I felt like they were all going to slow each other down and maybe I’d have an edge into (Turn) 1. People do that all the time, cut to the apron on every type of racetrack that’s available, just none of the other ones have ramps on them.
“I’m not honestly sure if there’s an actual drain there or not. I don’t think there is. If there is a drain right there, it’s really dumb to put a drain right there because it’s just on the apron. I think it’s just a big bump. I don’t understand how you can repave a place a handful of years ago, and there’s a jump higher than any track we go to, but yeah, I didn’t even know it was there.
“We don’t run on it. You never run down there, and I didn’t really know it was going to be that bad. I was lucky it didn’t wipe out all of us. I hate it. I went into Kevin real hard, but I just didn’t know it was going to be that bad.”
The final restart had Harvick and Truex on the front row, with Blaney lined up third on the inside. He had lost control of the race on the previous restart when Harvick made it three-wide into Turn 1, alongside both he and Truex. And being lined up on the bottom was not the ideal spot for restarts.
“It was just between (Truex) and I (and) it was just who was in front of who as far as who was going to have a god shot to win the race,” said Blaney. “We got a break there on that one restart where we got a quick caution, and we were a nose ahead of him, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re finally back in control of this race,’ and then he got put three-wide in the top of three and couldn’t’ maintain the lead.
“And then I hit the damn X Games bump, jump on the frontstretch there and bounced me into Harvick, so that sucked. But overall, I was happy with our speed, just didn’t quite catch the breaks we needed to try to win the race.”