Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge
Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS),
finished eighth in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at
Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday afternoon. The
result marked Blaney’s sixth top-10 finish of the season in
just 13 NNS starts.
Blaney began the 200-lap race from the 20th position,
based on his lap of 32.806 seconds at 164.604 miles per
hour during Saturday morning’s qualifying session. As the
field took the green flag to start the race, Blaney quickly
guided the Discount Tire Dodge to the front of the field
and into the top 15. Running lap times consistent with
the leaders, Blaney tried different racing lines on the
track in order to counteract the loose-handling condition
of his race car. As he piloted the No. 22 Dodge Challenger down pit road for the first green flag pit stop of the evening, crew chief Jeremy Bullins called for four tires, air pressure and track bar adjustments on the Discount Tire machine to address its loose-handling condition. He restarted the race in the 11th position.
When the first caution flag of the Ford EcoBoost 300 flew about 20 laps later, Blaney made his way down pit road for the second time of the evening for a fuel-only stop. This well-timed stop resulted in Blaney gaining valuable positions on the race track as he restarted in the fourth position. As the race continued, Blaney was still fighting a loose-handling condition on the No. 22 car and he began to quickly lose track position. Relief came on lap 105 when the caution flag flew for the third time of the evening. Needing to address the handling of the Discount Tire Dodge, Bullins called for four tires, a track bar adjustment and fuel on the stop. Hoping this would improve the performance of the car, Blaney restarted in the fifth position with 101 laps to go.
Making the best of the loose-handling condition which remained on the Dodge Challenger, Blaney again worked on his entry and exit into the corners and he asked for a wedge adjustment on the next stop. He continued to improve his track position as he worked his way through lapped traffic and ran lap times consistent with the leaders. As he made a second pit stop under the green flag on lap 155, Blaney was able to receive a wedge adjustment along with four tires and he was able to circle back around to the seventh position after the stops cycled through.
The final pit stop of the night came on lap 173 as the Discount Tire Dodge Challenger received four tires along with air pressure and track bar adjustments. With less than 20 laps remaining, Blaney restarted the race in the sixth position. As the laps wound down in the 2012 NNS season, Blaney found himself in a battle for a top-10 finish with the No. 33 car of Brendon Gaughan and the No. 11 machine driven by Brian Scott. Blaney kept his car out of trouble over the final laps as he brought the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger home in the eighth position.
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., finished fourth Saturday afternoon in the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger.
“Definitely not the way we wanted to finish here but we came home eighth and this is probably the strongest field we’ve had,” said Blaney. “Jeremy (Bullins) and the team made some really good changes there at the end and that helped. Man, I just couldn’t pick a line where to go in those four-wide situations. We were always stronger for 15-20 laps and then we would get really lose. This is a very hard mile-and-a-half track. There’s little room for error when you’re running right up next to the wall. It’s a very tough race track, pretty tough to pass too. But it makes for fun racing.”
The No. 22 Dodge team finished the season ranked sixth in the Nationwide Series owner standings. Following Saturday result, Hornish and the No. 12 Penske Dodge team closed out the season ranked fourth in the NNS championship standings.