NASCAR Trucks: Ryan Blaney now in Matt Crafton’s rear view mirror

1 Comment

A day of survival for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship contenders at Talladega ended on somewhat of a down note for Ryan Blaney.

Blaney took the green-white-checkered restart for the Fred’s 250 in second place alongside Timothy Peters. But Peters, the eventual race winner, and the inside lane ultimately won out, and Blaney was forced to settle for a fifth-place finish.

However, it was enough to move him to second place in the standings with four races to go. Blaney also cut his points deficit behind championship leader Matt Crafton to 17 points.

“I thought we were going to have a great shot at the win,” Blaney told Fox Sports about his G-W-C efforts. “Coming off of [Turn] 2 with Erik Jones pushing me there, I was planning on making my move with him, just try to side-draft him the right amount at the right spot.

“I knew the third lane was gonna come eventually, but I didn’t think they were gonna go that early. And right when they got outside of the 51 [Jones], they sucked him right off of me and stopped us.

“If I would’ve pulled up there, we would’ve got wrecked, they were coming so fast. Luckily, they all got jumbled up four-wide off of [Turn] 4, and we were able to go from maybe 11th up to fifth within a thousand yards.”

Despite the near-miss, Blaney was able to make the best of a difficult day. He led the majority of the first half before he was penalized for speeding on pit road following a green flag stop at Lap 45 of 94.

Blaney was then lapped by the leaders after serving his drive-through penalty, but caught a break when a slowing Milka Duno on pit road brought out a caution with Blaney in position for the free pass. From there, Blaney manuevered back into the lead pack by the time the race hit 20 laps to go.

In the end, he didn’t get his ideal result, but Blaney knows that drives like he had on Saturday could prove critical as the championship heads for its climax next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“This is a long five-race stretch to Homestead here, and I told our guys, ‘If we have weeks like this, we’re gonna be right there at Homestead,” he said.

Nonetheless, Crafton remains in control of the proceedings for the time being despite having his own troubles on Saturday – hitting Bryan Silas early on pit road and taking damage, then being penalized for tandem drafting with around 40 laps left.

Crafton was actually in contention for a Top-5 spot on the final lap of the race but was shuffled to the outside in the last run through the tri-oval to the checkered flag. He finished 14th, but suffered just a two-point loss on his championship lead from where it was going into today.

As for Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, he joined Blaney in moving up in the points as well. He finished ninth today following a frenetic G-W-C, but pulled within 28 points of Crafton in third spot. Johnny Sauter’s early exit from today’s race has now stuck him 36 points back in fourth.

After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”