Ryan Blaney proved Sunday that no matter where you are in the points, in NASCAR’s Playoffs nothing is certain but winning.
Blaney left Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday in a pretty good points position. Thanks to a clean race and a sixth-place finish, combined with DNF’s from two of the Playoff drivers, Blaney came to Kansas Sunday in second place.
Sadly, he leaves the 1.5-mile speedway below the cutline with one more chance of making the Final 4 who will race for this year’s NASCAR Cup series title in just two weeks. Blaney was running 4th on lap 72 when a cut tire sent him into the pits under green. He spent nearly the entire race recovering from that and was fighting for a top 10 spot when Austin Dillon got loose on a restart on lap 224 underneath him and send Blaney’s Ford into the outside wall exiting Turn 2.
Blaney was the only one among the Playoff drivers who was scored with a DNF Sunday.
“Obviously it hurts,” Blaney said. “Finishing 37th is not prime. We didn’t have a great day, but we did a good job of fighting back and getting back into the top-10 but then just got wiped out when we had plenty of room. That sucks. It is very unfortunate.”
Blaney now finds himself below the cutline. But Blaney wasn’t the only Playoff driver to have issues. Kyle Busch who suffered a flat tire and had to pit under green on lap 23 while running inside the top 10. He was able to recover and was back inside the top 10 once again when another tire went down on lap 133 and his Toyota suffered a hard hit into the outside wall. Busch finished 28, 6 laps down but still has a 1 point margin above the cutline, a small comfort.
“Loose and a lot of wind,” Busch said. “Just could not get the handle on it with entry or exit. Knew it on the get-go within the first 10 laps or so or whatever it was on that first yellow with the weather. Just really, really up on top of the right rear all day and couldn’t feel it on entry and exit. Bit me twice. The first time it was tolerable and the second time, it was just over.”
Brad Keselowski also had a forgettable day after contending for the lead at one point. He got together with Playoff driver Martin Truex Jr. and scrapped the wall on lap 34. He had to pit in the closing laps with debris on the grill of his Penske Ford and finished 17th one lap down.
Truex later had issues of his own. A flat tire sent him to the pits under green on lap 53 and he was 2 laps down at one point but stayed out of trouble in the closing laps and finished 7th.
“Where we finished was about where we were going to be,” Truex said. “I would have liked to have done without that damage; it was pretty fast before that. Unfortunately the way that deal worked out, but we’re still in it and we’re still fighting.”
Joey Logano and his crew gambled during a round of green flag stops hoping for a caution. He stayed out as the rest of the leaders pitted and was credited with leading 22 laps, but finally had to pit on lap 146. He would finish 9th just behind Christopher Bell in 8th.
Logano came into the day at the bottom of the standings but did cut his points deficit in half.
“It is pretty far out still,” Logano said. “All things considered, it isn’t just that it is 20-something points out, but I am still eighth. I have three or four cars in front of me that I have to get in front of, assuming there isn’t a different winner. It is still pretty much a must-win situation. It would be far-fetched for it to happen. But hey, look at today. Maybe it could happen.”