AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Blaney wasn’t able to close the deal on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, but a top-five finish put his 2022 season back on track.
On Saturday, Blaney put the No. 12 Team Penske Ford on the pole for the first time this year. After leading the first 25 circuits leading up to the competition caution, a pit-road speeding penalty sent him to the back of the field. From there, he was able to work his way back up to the front for the Stage 2 victory. He also led a race-high 143 laps en route to a fourth-place result.
It was the ninth time in his career where he led more than 100 laps in a race but was unable to break into Victory Lane. Despite the disappointment of coming up short, Blaney was still satisfied after recent finishes of 17th and 36th at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, respectively.
“Overall, very fast day with a solid car,” Blaney said. “A shame we didn’t get the win, but days like this you can’t complain too much about.”
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While the car showcased race-winning capable speed throughout the 312-lap race, Blaney fought a steering-wheel issue for the majority of it, chiming in on the radio multiple times to voice his concern about how substantially it was shaking.
“I can’t wait to get back to the race shop to tear it apart,” Blaney said. “About 25 laps into the second stage, I had massive … it felt like caster wobble, but in the corner at speed. You usually get caster wobble about 10 miles per hour or at pit-road speed. This was at speed, so I don’t know what was wrong. It was pretty bad to deal with. It was pretty significant and I think that hurt us a little bit.
“The second-to-last restart, I went to the apron and I don’t know if it bent, broke … it stopped vibrating like crazy and was just pulling to the right whenever I lifted. So I don’t know what happened to it, something in the steering system. I would love to look at it because my wheel was all bent out of shape and it was a mess. Luckily we didn’t go many more laps because I was just kind of hanging on.”
Including Sunday’s finish, Blaney now has four top fives and eight top 10s at the 1-mile Arizona oval, including four straight finishes of 10th or better. A favorite to compete for the title, the trend favors him when the series heads back to Phoenix for the Championship 4 race in November.
“I thought we had a shot today, but it just didn’t play out,” Blaney said. “We seem to qualify great here, we always qualify really good. Seem to race pretty decent, but just never seem to put a whole one together to try to win the race. Hopefully one of these days it would be nice.”