While Ryan Blaney can advance in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs on points, he’s going to Bristol with one thing in mind.
“We have to win next weekend,” said Blaney after a 19th-place finish Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. “It’s pretty plain and simple. With the bad couple of races we’ve had here to start the playoffs off, we probably need to go out there and win Bristol. That’s our mindset; that’s our goal.
“It’s our goal every week to win the race, but now it’s our season on the line. We’ll see if we can get it done. We’ve been pretty close at Bristol before, it’s just a matter of trying to put a whole race together there.”
Blaney is last on the playoff grid for the first elimination race of the postseason. He is in a 27-point hole.
At Richmond, things began going downhill at the Lap 30 competition caution when Blaney had to pit a second time for the team to tighten lug nuts. He fell outside the top 25 for the restart and finished the first stage in 24th position. He was 19th at the end of the second stage and didn’t make much headway from there.
“It’s just another frustrating night here at Richmond,” said Blaney. “It’s frustrating because we put a lot of work into this weekend throughout the whole week and felt like trying something different, and it just didn’t work out. That’s definitely frustrating, and it definitely stinks going to Bristol being so far back and probably having to win the race; but it’s been a good track for us, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Blaney lost 10 points at Richmond, having entered 17 points below the cutline. It has been a surprisingly difficult two weeks for the No. 12 team, which had earned the seventh seed to start the playoffs.
But then they were docked 10 points before the green flag in the playoff opener last weekend at Darlington when the team left a lead bag in the car. Then they struggled and encountered multiple troubles throughout the Southern 500 and finished 24th, off the lead lap in that race as well.
“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” said Blaney of his two bad weekends. “What happened at Darlington happened and what happened (Saturday night) is already done and gone, so all we can do is look for Bristol and go try to have a really good run and try to win the race and move on.
“That’s our only hope, but we certainly picked a bad time to start running bad; hopefully we can get it turned around. We’ve got one week to do it.”