Newly signed Ryan Blaney has the same mindset as when the season started

WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 20: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Wurth Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 20, 2022 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

As popular Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney continues to vie for the final NASCAR Cup Series Playoff position, he already scored a major victory – resigning with the iconic Penske team this week. He has been with the team for 10 years – spanning starts in the Xfinity Series and ultimately his entry into NASCAR’s premier league.

“It has been a really cool 10 years and I am looking forward to continue that on for a long time,’’ said Blaney, who will start the No. 12 Team Penske Ford 26th on Sunday. “It’s great to get that out there, obviously the silly season side of it, it is nice to not be in those talks and have a home because they have been like family to me and I look forward to carrying on with them.’’

Blaney has seven NASCAR Cup Series victories with Penske – including three last year. A victory this weekend at Watkins Glen, however, would be hugely significant – snapping an uncharacteristic winless 2022 and securing a Playoff position with only one regular season race remaining beyond Watkins Glen.

He has two top-10 finishes in five Watkins Glen starts with a best showing of fifth place in 2019. Blaney is the defending summer race winner at Daytona International Speedway, site of the regular season finale next week. He also has a pair of runner-up finishes in the DAYTONA 500.

There have been 15 different race winners in 2022 and Blaney goes into Sunday’s race with a 26-point advantage over Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. fighting for that last Playoff points position. A win for either would ensure that driver qualifies for the top-16 Playoff grid. Interestingly they will start alongside each other on Sunday from the 13th row.

“Honestly, it is the same mindset as the second or third race of the year,’’ Blaney said of closing out the regular season. “It is just the time of year as to why it gets talked about more, obviously. You always want to win races and do well in stages and beat everybody else.

“There is really no way to approach it any differently. You just try to do the best you can and maximize your day.’’

“I have slept great this week, no different than any other time,’’ Blaney added. “You can’t stress yourself out about it. It is either going to happen or it isn’t, whether you make the Playoffs or not. There are only two choices, two options. You can’t stress about the negatives if you don’t make it.

“If you stress yourself out about that then your mind is set on that you aren’t going to make it. You just have to have an open mind about anything can happen and you just have to do your best.

Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service
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