Hitting the target: Young Ryan Blaney nearly pulls it off at Kentucky

SPARTA, KY - JULY 14: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Snickers Intense Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway on July 14, 2018 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

For all the talk of NASCAR’s young guns this season, only Erik Jones has visited victory lane in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series.

Ryan Blaney nearly hit the bullseye Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

After starting seventh, Blaney soon had his Team Penske Ford inside the top five.  He would finish the first stage fourth.

Blaney was soon third in stage 2 and spent the next 70 something laps trying to find a way around second place Kyle Busch.  He would finish stage 2 still behind Busch in third.

Varying tire strategy had Blaney outside the top five to start the final stage, but with four tires.  He would get around second place Kurt Busch (who had taken only two tires) and was soon trying to catch leader Martin Truex Jr.

He would run out of time and didn’t quite have enough for Truex who was the class of the field. Blaney would settle for second place just over a second behind.

“It’s not a win,” Blaney said.  “It’s a positive, that’s for sure.  I hate it.  I thought we were in a good spot there restarting fourth and Martin struggled a little bit the first couple laps and I thought I could get by him, but just couldn’t quite get a run on him.  His car came in and mine kind of faded a little bit and he won the race.  That stunk. “

It was his best finish of the season and his first top five run since Texas in April.

“We needed a run like that after the last few weeks that we’ve had,” Blaney said.  “Back to where this team deserves to run, which is good, and I think our company as a whole is making small gains.  Granted, I think we still have a good chunk to cover, but small gains are always nice, so hopefully we can keep making those.”