LOUDON, N.H. – Playoff driver Ryan Blaney is looking for a single-digit finish this weekend, and he’s off to an excellent start.
In four previous races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Blaney has started a remarkably consistent 16th, 14th, 16th and 15th. His finishes are 23rd, 11th, 12th and 19th.
In this year’s July race, Blaney ran better than 19th throughout most of the afternoon, but as the traction compound applied to the asphalt began to wear off, the handling of his car deteriorated. That was an object lesson for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team.
“The biggest thing I felt like we struggled with in the first race this year was when the grip strip went away, we didn’t have our car ready for when it finally faded away,” Blaney said after Saturday’s first practice at the Magic Mile.
“It’s going to fade away like the first race, and it’s just a matter of the second half of the race or the last 100 (laps) – whenever it does fade – is making sure your car is handling well so you don’t have to run in it, and you can migrate back to the normal lane.”
Blaney qualified fourth on Friday, and in Saturday morning’s first practice session he was second fastest behind Kyle Larson. In final practice, under conditions that will most closely resemble those for Sunday’s race, he was sixth on the speed chart behind series leader Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, polesitter Kyle Busch, non-Playoff driver Daniel Suarez and Larson.
Happy Hour was anything but happy for Joey Logano. While other drivers practiced during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, Logano sat on pit road, serving the entire 55 minutes in NASCAR’s version of a penalty box. Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford failed in repeated attempts to get through pre-qualifying inspection on Friday and did not make an attempt during time trials. He’ll start last in Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 with no practice during Happy Hour…
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified 15th on Friday, was eighth fastest in final practice at 131.112 mph, second best among non-Playoff drivers. Earnhardt is racing at New Hampshire for the last time in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet…
Ty Dillon scraped the wall with his No. 13 Chevrolet in Happy Hour and will start Sunday’s race from the rear in a backup car. Jimmie Johnson (seventh in final practice) and Chase Elliott (13th) also are in backup cars because of accidents in Friday’s opening practice, but will start where they qualified (12th and 14th, respectively) because their wrecks occurred before time trials.