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Ryan Blaney had high expectations heading into Sunday’s Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway after recording a pair of top-10 finishes on his last two trips to wine country, but more specifically, because of his recent performances this year, which included three consecutive top 10s, including a win at the Coca-Cola 600.

Unfortunately, reality set in on Saturday when the No. 12 car qualified 31st. That run was a precursor of things to come, as the Team Penske car struggled throughout the race on Sunday. However, a late caution and tire strategy call changed everything, and the 29-year-old found himself running in the top three with less than 20 laps to go. 

Over the course of the race’s final laps, Blaney was involved in a pair of incidents, which dropped him back to where he had been running most of the day. After the race, he was understandably unhappy and expressed his frustration when a reporter approached and asked him about one of the incidents and the driver accused the reporter of trying to stir up trouble. 

Ryan Blaney struggles at Sonoma

The weekend for Ryan Blaney couldn’t have started much worse than it did on Saturday when the No. 12 car posted a qualifying time that placed him 31st on the starting grid. 

It was an uphill battle from the drop of the green flag, and the Penske car remained stuck deep in the field throughout the race, finishing 34th at the end of Stage 1 and moving up only a few positions to 28th to close out Stage 2. 

In the third and final stage, with 20 laps remaining, the driver was running 30th and appeared destined for his worst finish of the season. But everything changed with 19 laps remaining when Denny Hamlin got into the wall and brought out just the second caution of the day. 

The No. 12 team, on seven-lap old tires, opted to stay out along with Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott while the rest of the field pitted. 

Blaney has adventurous finish

Ryan Blaney practices.
Ryan Blaney drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 10, 2023. | Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

On the restart, Blaney started in the second row behind his good friend Chase Elliott on the inside lane but quickly faded back to sixth on the first lap, with the two fastest cars of the day in, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch passing him along with teammate Joey Logano. 

With seven laps to go, the No. 12 had dropped back to seventh when AJ Allmendinger dive-bombed underneath him in Turn 11. That move by itself would have been OK, but Blaney slowed down, and Michael McDowell drove into the back of him, sending the Penske car for a spin.

His day, which had gone from bad to good and back to bad, was about to get even worse on the next lap when Chase Briscoe got into the rear of Blaney and sent him for another spin in Turn 2. 

After all of that, he finished where he started in 31st, and recorded his worst finish of the season. 

Tells reporter to stop trying to start controversy


Ryan Blaney Surprisingly Admits to Conversations With Chase Elliott About Staging a Fight After a Race

Moments after the race, an understandably frustrated Blaney was walking back to the garage area when a reporter caught up with him and asked what happened with the No. 34 of Michael McDowell.

“He dumped me,” Blaney quickly replied. “I don’t know. I can’t see it. Stop trying to start controversy.” 

Ryan Blaney had been riding high in the last month following his crown jewel win at the Coke 600. Sunday at Sonoma brought him back down to earth. The week off couldn’t have come at a better time as it will allow him and the rest of the drivers to get some much-needed rest and relaxation before resuming in a couple of weeks for a final push toward the playoffs.

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