Ryan Blaney runs strong at ISM Raceway-just not strong enough

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 10: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 DEX Imaging Ford, races during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on November 10, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Needing to make up a 23-point deficit to qualify for the Championship 4, Ryan Blaney started 10th in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500, last among Playoff contenders.

Blaney’s car improved throughout the race, and he finished third behind Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, but with Hamlin winning the race and Busch also advancing to the final race, Blaney was knocked out of contention.

Blaney had a chance to win when the race went to a restart with three laps to go, but Blaney started second on the inside, with Hamlin taking the top lane.

“I felt like I got an OK start,” Blaney said. “It’s really hard for the guy on the bottom on the front row to accelerate and turn down the hill. It’s the way (the track) is shaped. It’s kind of tough, especially in Turn 2. But I don’t know, you can always get a better start, right?

“I thought I got an OK start, but the 18 (Busch) got a better one and got inside of me, and, honestly, the top is so dominant, especially if you’re on two, you’re kind of just sliding up from the bottom, and he (Hamlin) was obviously the best car all day. Just needed the lead and I might have been able to pinch him through 1 and 2, and you never know. But it’s not enough.”

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