World news – CRANDALL: For Blaney, work is just getting started

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With a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the youngest member of the Team Penske trio secured the award of at least one win for the fifth time in a row. That came in the sixth race of the season, the earliest Blaney has won a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Winning is great and it means Blaney will be back on the playoff grid, but one or two more Winning races this season would go further for him and Team # 12. In a way, Blaney still has to prove himself every weekend and show that he’s a competitor, and not just when he has his way.

When his teammates could easily win – and in the case of Joey Logano, a title three years ago – Blaney has not yet cracked the code of multiple wins in one season. Of course, he offered an « Oh, yeah, sure » when asked after last weekend if that’s the expectation for this season. And he fully understands that no driver wants to be a one-win miracle.

« To be honest, it’s nice to get a win at the start of the season, » said Blaney. “Six races, six different winners. It’s nice to have a win at the start of the season. this is something that somehow escaped us. We won at Talladega last year, but it was mid-season. Getting one early is great. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. “

Blaney and crew chief Todd Gordon both thought they should have won several times last year. Although much of 2020 was a learning season for both of them, the group came out strong with 77 led laps in the first four races (before the start of the coronavirus pandemic), battling for victory and Fontana late in both Las Vegas, before unfortunate luck intervened.

Last year Blaney did more laps in one season than ever before, finishing in the top 10 after failing to hit his one season high. But something always seemed to go wrong when it came to finishing races. Take the lead early and drop off the top 5 in Bristol. Start from pole in Martinsville, but not enough to challenge Martin Truex Jr.; The dominance in Texas against an untimely caution split the field in terms of pit strategy.

These were just a few of the highlights. Speed ​​was never an issue and the expectations of Blaney were higher than ever, especially since he was paired with someone of Gordon’s caliber. However, the end result of their first season was a disappointment, especially given the fact that they repeatedly shot each other in the foot in the first round of the playoffs leading to an early elimination.

« I’ve seen Ryan has grown in the past 14 months, « said Gordon. « He had loads of speed. We understand what we need to do as a racing team to give him better things at the end of the race. There have been places where we’ve gone the other direction. That’s all part of the learning curve. Me trying to put that together.

« I was very impressed with the ride after Stage 2. He knew late in this run, before the pit cycle, the last run, that he was running down Kyle [Larson] pretty hard. I love that The fact that he could put pressure on him and still run up there. I think that’s something we can build on as a team. I think there are a lot more ways to do that.

Crew Chief Todd Gordon sees Blaney’s early win as something the team can build on as the year progresses. Kinrade / Motorsport Images

« We’ve had a few situations where it walked away from us, but I’d say we’ll all find out what are these pieces that we can put together to make sure we succeed in the end. « (Atlanta) was a highlight of those. We will expand that. « 

Atlanta is also Blaney’s first win on a traditional track, if you want to put it that way. His first career win came at the one-of-a-kind Pocono Raceway, followed by Charlotte Roval, and then two consecutive triumphs at Talladega Superspeedway. As team owner Roger Penske explained, Atlanta was the first win in which Blaney had to ‘grind’ against the field.

« He would be quick and even said it himself: » I’m early, but I can’t in the end keep, « said Penske. « I think it was a great win for him and a lot of confidence, and I think we’ll see a lot of him this year. » Hopefully Penske said the former and not the latter are seen from Blaney. Since it is not trust that he needs, there are more trophies to fill what is still a fairly empty table.

Kelly has been on the NASCAR beat full time since 2013 and joined RACER in 2017 as chief NASCAR writer. Her work has also been featured on NASCAR.com, NASCAR Illustrated Magazine, and NBC Sports. Crandall is a corporate communications graduate from Central Penn College and two-time George Cunningham Writer of the Year with the National Motorsports Press Association.

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