Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. entered the weekend at Richmond Raceway in a battle for the final spot in the Cup Series playoffs. Blaney used the race to put some distance between himself and Truex.
Blaney had a 19-point lead after the trip to Michigan International Speedway. He finished fifth while Truex finished sixth, but the driver of the No. 19 walked away with more points after finishing Stage 1 in the seventh position. He then headed to one of his best tracks with an opportunity to secure a win that would put him in the playoffs.
The short track race played out in a manner that many did not expect. Kevin Harvick won his second straight race after taking the lead from Joey Logano in the final stage while Truex finished seventh. Blaney ended the day 10th overall, but he had a better points day overall to increase his lead to 26.
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Blaney & the No. 12 Team Chased Points
Truex dealt with setbacks during the race at Richmond. He didn’t have the handling he needed, he sustained minor damage after unexpected contact from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and he was also partially involved in an incident that collected Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, and Erik Jones.
While Truex secured one point during Stage 1, Blaney had better runs earlier in the race. He secured five points in Stage 1 and six in Stage 2 to boost his total. These early runs helped him offset a finish that was lower than Truex’s, but they didn’t fully ease any of his concerns.
“You never know what could happen,” Blaney told FOX Sports after the race. “You could have a bad day next week or the next two weeks, you could have a new winner one of those weeks. You just never know, so I don’t feel better or worse about it. Just one race down and proud of the effort we had and try to do the same thing next week.”
Blaney & Truex Will Battle at a Road Course
Blaney has the lead over Truex in the points battle, but he is not comfortable. He is well aware that there could be a new winner at both Watkins Glen International and Daytona International Speedway.
Both he and Truex will enter the road course weekend seeking another strong finish at the track. Blaney has made five starts at Watkins Glen during his Cup Series career, and he has two top-10 finishes. This includes a fifth-place run in 2019.
Truex, for comparison, has 15 starts at Watkins Glen in the Cup Series. He has posted 10 top-10 finishes, seven top-fives, and one trip to Victory Lane. Truex won the 2017 race en route to the first Cup Series championship of his career.
Along with the win, Truex has been on a hot streak at the road course. He has four straight top fives, including back-to-back runner-ups in 2018 and 2019. His last start that didn’t result in a top-five was a seventh-place finish during the 2016 season.
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