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Ryan Blaney isn’t bothered by a less-than-ideal start to NASCAR title defense

Vaseline 2 months ago

Defending Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney races at one of his stronger tracks on Sunday. He won at Talladega Superspeedway last October to help his Championship 4 campaign and will hope to remember his way to victory lane. Nine races into the current season he has not yet won a race. However, he isn’t overtly concerned about the state of play in his #12 Team Penske camp.

Blaney was asked for a self-assessment on his season so far during his press conference in Talladega, when he noted that he had a better season than last year.

“Honestly, I feel like the first quarter of this season has gone better at this point than last year. Pretty decent runs,” he said. “I thought I could have won last week. I had the speed to do it, but I feel like we’ve done a good job of stringing together a handful of top fives before.”

The champion has four top fives in the first nine races and a best finish of second in Atlanta. He further noted that the work his team had done to improve the intermediates had satisfied him and that they were moving in the right direction. He concluded, “Obviously we’re trying to get things a little bit better. But I’m happy with the progress we’ve made. Hopefully we can continue to make that progress.”

Can Ryan Blaney take the victory banner in Talladega?

Blaney has finished first or second in each of his last three races at Dega and is a strong one favorite to keep the streak active after Sunday. He has also led a total of 283 laps around the track – the fourth most among active drivers. He is one of the most popular picks on the opening bets chances of 10-1 (Draftkings Sportsbook).

Nevertheless, Blaney will be at a significant disadvantage during the race. Crew chief Jonathan Hassler will not be on the track due to the birth of his daughter. Team engineer Tony Palmer and race director Travis Geisler will take his place in the pit box.

However, Hassler will still be connected to the box remotely. “He was involved in everything (leading up to Talladega) and he’s calling for the race,” Blaney said.He will be in the ears of those boys, but he was involved in the preparation as usual. He’s just not there.”

The Talladega superspeedway race starts at 3:00 PM ET.