Blaney “never thought” he was in danger of running out of fuel

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, MenardsRichmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang

Blaney was among the first of the lead lap cars to hit pit road for his final green flag pit stop with 66 of 240 laps remaining Sunday, but well within the window to make it to the end of the race.

Christopher Bell, who had proven to have one of the best cars in the race, pit nearly 20 laps later and eventually caught Blaney on fresher tires.

For nearly three laps the duo battled side-by-side and traded the lead until Bell suddenly fell off the pace with an engine issue.

With Bell out of the picture, Blaney gained a big lead and clear path to victory until his No. 12 Ford also suddenly slowed with two laps to go.

Blaney’s Penske teammate Austin Cindric inherited the lead and picked up the surprise win while Blaney coasted him to a 24th place finish.

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, MenardsRichmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang

Photo by: Danny Hansen / NKP / Motorsport Images

“Never thought in my mind we were short (of fuel). One of those things,” a dejected Blaney said on pit road. “Gosh, proud of the No. 12 boys.

“We were fast. Had my work cut out for me holding off Christopher. That was a fun battle. I don’t know what happened to him.

“Yeah, one lap short, which just stinks. Congrats to the No. 2 team. They did a good job all day. Props to them. Austin. Proud for Team Penske and Ford.”

It’s been a frustrating season for the reigning series champion.

Blaney has run well enough to win, but has wrecked out of three races, including the two prior to Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway.

He has dropped from sixth to 12th in the series standings with three consecutive finishes of 24th or worse heading into next weekend’s race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

“Really happy with our showing today. I don’t know what I got to do to get some luck on our side,” Blaney said. “Gosh, wrecked the last two points races. Thought we had a great shot to win today. Ended up bad.

“Just appreciate the effort. Got to keep sticking with it.”

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