Column: No Panic For Ryan Blaney In NASCAR Playoffs; Joey Logano Applauds NASCAR & More…

Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – HOMESTEAD, FL – Penske Racing driver Ryan Blaney took the blame for his poor finish in the Round of 8 Playoff opener last week at Las Vegas. Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford hit the wall late in the race and suffered enough damage that he ultimately finished 28th, seven laps down.

With the disappointing finish, Blaney dropped out of the Top-4 in the standings, however he’s only 11 points behind Hamlin, who currently holds that fourth and final cutoff position.

Blaney said he remained very optimistic about his Playoff hopes and doesn’t consider Sunday’s race to be a high-pressure “must win” situation. He earned his only Top-10 in seven Homestead starts in 2020 – finishing third and leading 70 laps. He’s had three Top-10 finishes in the Xfinity Series at the track and a runner-up showing in the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race there.

“I don’t think we are in a must-win,’’ Blaney said. “After I wrecked last week I thought I was going to be way more points out than I actually am. The stages we ran really good, so luckily we had those. You never know what can happen.

“I think you can make up those points the next two races. I would sure like to win this weekend, but I don’t think we are in a must-win situation.’’

 

LOGANO APPLAUDS NASCAR

With his victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week, Penske Racing’s Logano is the first to earn an automatic bid into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway in three weeks.

The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion spoke to the media before Saturday’s qualifying and shared his thoughts on the 1-race suspension NASCAR handed out to Wallace this week for aggressive driving at Las Vegas.

“I think there’s a few things that go to all that, what’s acceptable to NASCAR and what’s acceptable to you as an individual,’’ Logano said, conceding he was sometimes regarded as overly-aggressive early in his career too.

“I always say sports tests your morals and tests your character a lot of times and sometimes it’s tough to balance all that in the heat of the moment. It’s hard to imagine yourself inside a race car if you haven’t done it before.

“You sometimes make decisions that you’re not proud of later on, but you learn lessons every time. I’ve made mistakes and made dumb decisions inside race cars that I regret, but I’ve learned from every one of them and feel like I really know where my line is now – years later. But I know what my line is and what is acceptable and what is not.’’

The driver of the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford said he was glad to see the sanctioning body step in and make a definitive call on acceptable competitive behavior. And Logano expects that to be front of mind this weekend.

“There’s a line between ‘boys have it’ and ‘you’ve gone way too far,’ ‘’ Logano said. “It’s one thing if someone knocks you out of the way and you knock them back out of the way. That’s one thing. It’s different if someone pushes you up a little bit and you right-rear hook them into the wall at 180 mph … that’s a different story.

 

HOME TRACK

For the first time in Chastain’s career, he shows up at his “home track” Homestead-Miami Speedway as a NASCAR Cup Series race winner. And this week, he tops the points standings among the Playoff drivers still vying for a position in the Nov. 6 Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

Chastain earned the first and second career victories of his NASCAR Cup Series career this season at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. And the driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet is the top-ranked Playoff driver without a win in this important Playoff-round. His 12 Top-5 finishes ties him with former series champion Chase Elliott for most this season.

Chastain, who is from Alva, Florida – about a two-and-a-half hour driver northwest from Homestead, concedes this will be a special weekend with so many of his friends and family members in the grandstands this weekend – watching both Chastain on Sunday and his younger brother Chad who competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday.

“I have less nerves than I did a couple years ago when I came here for a Truck championship with Niece Motorsports in 2019,’’ Chastain said. “That was the first time that had ever happened. That was the first time I had ever been in the (NASCAR) Playoffs, made a run and were here fighting for a championship.

“This weekend,” Chastain added, “my brother is running the truck race. Honestly, I get more nervous for that, as odd as that sounds. I’m way more fine with the Cup race and doing everything I need to do with my group. But when I don’t have control, when he’s racing, I just wish I could have control and I don’t. … I’m just up in the grandstands by myself fidgeting.

“Those two things take my mind off how serious what we’re doing with the No. 1 Chevy right now. But it feels good. It feels really good to see the smiles of my family and friends.

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