Ryan Blaney believes heâ€™s close to scoring his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the 2018 season.
The Team Penske pilot scored his first career win last year as a member of the Wood Brothers Racing team at Pocono Raceway. Blaney moved to Team Penske this year and has had a solid campaign through the first 18 races of the season.
However heâ€™s still not yet won a race something he believes will be rectified soon maybe in Saturday nightâ€™s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
â€œI feel like our team is pretty close to where it needs to be and I enjoy this place.â€� Blaney said Friday at Kentucky. â€œI think our mile-and-a-half program has been pretty decent, we just need to take that next step and weâ€™re kind of closing the gap between a few other teams and you know who the teams are. I feel confident every single weekend.
â€œI think we can go out and have strong runs and if we keep running towards the front, hopefully we can get a win here soon. Just trying to get that first one of the year is tough, but I have high hopes for this weekend and hopefully we can meet those expectations.â€�
Like his other Cup Series competitors, Blaney will be dealing with the challenges of the two-year-old repaving and reconfiguration plan at Kentucky. The unique elements of the track created in the wake of the work done a few years ago makes Kentucky far from a â€œcookie-cutterâ€� intermediate track.
â€œWhenever you go to these big race tracks where youâ€™re going so fast and a lot of air is moving around your car â€“ really every mile-and-a-half and up â€“ side drafting is huge,â€� Blaney explained. â€œIf you get to the inside of somebody you can really side draft their left-rear quarter panel and drag them back and just try to get them in position to where you donâ€™t enter the corner side-by-side if youâ€™re the bottom car because they can get you really loose.
â€œYou kind of want to get them like their nose on your door or a little bit further back if theyâ€™re on the outside because then it actually makes you a little bit tighter and you can get in the corner harder and not have a chance at spinning out underneath them. â€œ
Despite still being shut out of Victory Lane, Blaneyâ€™s mostly consistent season has him 11thin the series point standings heading into the Kentucky weekend. Heâ€™s in relatively good shape in terms of making the playoffs but understands the importance of the next eight races of the regular season.
Blaney is hoping to compete for wins while maintaining his spot as a playoff contender.
â€œWeâ€™re just trying to string together and trying to get back on track, especially before the playoffs hopefully,â€� he said. â€œWe canâ€™t have any more trouble, but just run like I know our team can run â€“ run up toward the front and try to bring fast cars every weekend, which we have, itâ€™s just a shame that hasnâ€™t shown up here the last few races.
â€œWeâ€™ll just try to keep doing what weâ€™ve been doing all year and having fast cars and just trying to stay out of trouble.â€�