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Entering the Talladega race 22 points behind the cutoff, Ryan Blaney was a long shot at best for the championship.
In fact, the Team Penske driver was likely the favorite to join the group of eliminated drivers.
But Ryan Blaney had a very good day at ‘Dega, even after a spin entering pit road nearly cost his race.
He made it to the front again, led the most laps and narrowly edged out Ryan Newman to score his first win of 2019.
Blaney, who had been winless for over a year, not just ended his drought but also secured a spot in the Round of 8 for the first time.
But, realistically, it was still a major upset, and he would have been eliminated otherwise.
Heading into the Round of 8, the Team Penske driver was a dark horse at best.
Barring another chaotic race, it was hard to imagine Blaney making it to the Championship Four.
But, surprisingly, #12 showed that this might not necessarily be the case.
Blaney had a very good race at Martinsville to open the Round of 8.
He ran behind the dominant car of Martin Truex Jr. at one point and spent a good amount of time in the top 3.
Blaney ultimately dropped to fifth following the last pit stop, but still scored a solid result.
The race at Martinsville showed that the Team Penske could run among the contenders.
What: AAA Texas 500
Where: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX
When: Sunday, November 3rd at 3:00 PM EST
How: NBCSN (TV) | Performance Racing Network (Web radio) | NBC Sports App
Texas will likely decide Blaney’s season.
The 1.5 mile Fort Worth oval is one of his best tracks.
The Team Penske driver started last year’s edition of the AAA 500 from the pole and finished second.
He also scored a top 5 in last year’s Spring race.
Going back another year, while still driving for Wood Brothers, Blaney led the most laps in the 2017 Spring race.
With a win at Talladega and a second at Martinsville, #12 is in the best form to go for a win this weekend.
Of course, he still has another shot to advance at Phoenix.
While the Arizona oval hasn’t been particularly kind to Blaney in the past, he did show some improvement there this season.
The Team Penske driver started the Summer race from the pole, won one stage and finished third.
Another important factor to keep an eye on is the pit crew swap promoted by Penske ahead of Martinsville.
Blaney sent two of his crew members to Joey Logano’s #22 team.
In return, he received Brad Keselowski’s crew from the #2 team.
The change has already produced some interesting results at Martinsville, and a similar move also played an important role in Logano’s 2018 title run.
Keep an eye on Blaney this weekend, as he could establish himself as a legit contender.
The Championship Winner odds are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
|Martin Truex Jr.||+210|
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