Editor’s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
Driver: Ryan Blaney
Car: No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang
Crew chief: Jonathan Hassler
Final 2022 ranking: Eighth
Key stats: 0 wins, 12 top fives, 17 top 10s, 3 poles, 636 laps led
How 2022 ended: Blaney charged through the NASCAR Playoffs as the only driver in the postseason without a win. Strong performances, particularly in the Round of 12, propelled the No. 12 team into the penultimate Round of 8, but mistakes at Las Vegas and Homestead-Miami thwarted his chances of advancing to the Championship 4. Blaney went out fighting, though, storming to a runner-up finish in the season finale at Phoenix after leading 109 laps to nab his fourth top-five finish in the final seven races of 2022.
Best race: Talladega playoff race. No, Blaney didn’t lead the most laps this day, but the stout superspeedway racer placed himself in position to capitalize once again at the 2.66-mile tri-oval. Blaney led 31 laps, claimed the Stage 1 victory and declared himself a threat to win. At the checkered flag, the No. 12 Ford fell just 0.046 seconds short of the victory, edged by Chase Elliott for the Talladega triumph.
Other season highlights: While it didn’t count for points or a guaranteed playoff berth, Ryan Blaney did visit Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway in May, taking home the $1 million prize for winning the exhibition NASCAR All-Star Race at the 1.5-mile oval. Blaney also impressed at one of his worst tracks, Richmond Raceway, where he led 128 laps, won the pole and Stage 1 and finished seventh on April 3. His spring race at Phoenix was productive as well, leading a race- and season-best 143 laps en route to a fourth-place finish after starting from the pole.
Stat to know: Nine stage wins. Twelve top fives are Blaney’s career high, improving after three consecutive seasons with 11 such finishes. But the goose egg sitting in the wins column marked his first winless year since his rookie season in 2016, even though he led the series in stage victories. His average finish, meanwhile, remained consistent with prior years at 13.6 – a drop from 11.9 in 2021 but a slight improvement from 13.8 in 2020 and 13.7 in 2019.
Quotable: “As much as I trust Chase, I don’t trust him enough for him not to take me three-wide and leave me in the middle, so I chose to stay down in front of (fellow Ford driver) Michael (McDowell). He was awesome at pushing me on the last restart and giving me great shots. Just a little bit too late.” – Blaney after finishing second to Chase Elliott at Talladega.
Looking ahead: Blaney proved he and first-year crew chief Jonathan Hassler are plenty capable of extracting speed from the Next Gen car given their resources at Team Penske, where teammate Joey Logano took home the championship. But going winless one year after collecting a career-high three victories in 2021 left plenty to be desired for the No. 12 team, even if they did advance to the Round of 8 this season. The ultimate point of emphasis for Blaney and Co. should center around closing races, particularly after scoring more stage wins than anybody in 2022.