A Comfortably Numb Ryan Blaney Holds on for Sixth Place Finish at Kentucky

SPARTA, KENTUCKY - JULY 12: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Advance Auto Parts Ford, prepares for the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway on July 12, 2020 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney had a rough day at the office Sunday. The Penske Racing driver looked poised to be a contender in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup series race at Kentucky Speedway. He would lead a total of 18 laps and finish fifth in the first stage.

Just prior to the end of that stage however, Blaney had a bit of an issue. The gear shifter in his Ford Mustang kept popping out of gear while the car was at full speed. Blaney was forced to drive with one hand on the wheel and the other on the shifter holding it in gear.

During the pit stops at the stage break, they crew gave Blaney a bungee cord, the fix of choice for many a NASCAR team since the sport started.

But with limited visibility and movement, Blaney wasn’t able to secure the cord to the shifter so spent the rest of the race holding the shifter in place.

He finished sixth. After it was over, Blaney wasn’t complaining or hurting.

“It wasn’t painful, it was just that my hand was going numb,” Blaney said.  “It was just vibrating so much that your hand would just go numb after a little bit, so you’d just shake it out and stretch it out.  It wasn’t painful, but it stayed pretty rough the whole race through one and two.  We had a big load, fast car, so I just didn’t want it to jump out of gear again, and I couldn’t get that bungie cord to work.  I didn’t have it hooked to put it anywhere, so my hand was just going numb.”

Despite racing with the adversity, Blaney was in the mix on the final restart with two laps to go. He was part of a four-wide battle for the race lead coming to the white flag. It turns out a drain, or a bump on the apron of the track ended his hopes for the win. The bump, or drain, acted like a ramp lifting his Ford off its wheels and force Blaney to back off just to avoid crashing.

“I’m not honestly sure if there’s an actual drain there or not,” Blaney said.  “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 bigger 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 gonna 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 gonna be that bad.”

“I was just trying to get way from those three guys,” he added.  “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 gonna get away from him as much as possible because I felt like they were all gonna slow each other down and maybe I’d have an edge into one.  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.”

Greg Engle