May 14, 2021

by a NASCAR fanatic - not affiliated with NASCAR

FORT WORTH, Texas — It was a bittersweet Sunday for Ryan Blaney at Texas Motor Speedway.

After winning the first two stages of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, a miscue on a pit stop in the final stage with 30 laps to go cost Blaney a chance at winning the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of his career. A clearly disappointed Blaney tried to be philosophical about it.

“Not a bad day for us,” he insisted. “It’s nice to win a couple segments, but I want to lead the last lap. That’s the lap I care about, but I thought we made a big gain today as a team.”

Blaney, who is in his second full-time season driving the iconic No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, had led only two laps this season – and only 33 for his career – prior to Sunday.

But no one could touch him in the first two stages, when he led a total of 146 of the 170 laps. He ended up leading a race-high and career-high 148 in all.

That’s what Blaney said he is trying to focus on after it went awry on his final pit stop with 30 to go.

Blaney overshot his pit stall and had to back up into it before his car could be serviced, costing him valuable time. He came out in 16th and it was all he could do to drive back up to 12th by the time the checkered flag flew.

“I think we got to eighth or something like that before the last caution, and I slid through our pit box, and that was an unfortunate deal,” Blaney said. “We were kind of pinned in between the 4 (car of Kevin Harvick) and the 88 (of Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and there was a weird angle. I just stopped a little deep, and I hurt us on that one for sure.”

At the end of the day, though, he could take solace in the fact that he became the first driver for Wood Brothers Racing to lead more than 100 laps in a race since Neil Bonnett at Rockingham in October of 1982.

He also pocketed 20 bonus points – 10 for each stage he won – which could really help him down the road as he pursues a NASCAR playoff spot.

“It’s just really, really helpful for your kind of long‑term outlook on things, and to go and hold the 4 and 78 (of Martin Truex Jr.) off and then the 48 (of race winner Jimmie Johnson) that last restart before segment 2, that showed how strong our car was,” Blaney said. “So it definitely means a lot to everybody I feel like, and it’s nice to be a part of a couple stage wins with the 21 car. It means a lot.”

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