Ryan Blaney needs a win at Phoenix to stay alive in NASCAR playoffs

Ryan Blaney is one of five drivers vying for the one remaining spot available in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4.

In his second season driving full-time for Wood Brothers Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Ryan Blaney has the opportunity to race for a championship. The only thing between him and that chance are four other drivers.

Blaney enters the Cam-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway needing a win to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Blaney is sixth in the standings, ahead of both Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.

Typically in the NASCAR playoffs if you are ahead of seven-time Jimmie Johnson that’s a good thing for your championship hopes. But, not this time.

Blaney is just three points behind Denny Hamlin in fifth but 22 points behind Brad Keselowski who holds the final spot in the Championship.

Which makes the race at Phoenix a must-win for Blaney.

“You pretty much have to go and win the race,” Blaney said after the race at Texas.

“That’s all we can do. It’s gonna be hard to point your way in because everyone is running pretty good. We’ll just try to win Phoenix and do the best we can. Obviously, we need to be really aggressive.”

Ryan Blaney during practice for the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway. World Copyright: Logan Whitton, NKP.

Blaney will start on the pole at Phoenix, which will give him an opportunity to earn some very valuable stage points.

Blaney’s average finish at Phoenix is his Cup Series career is 13.67, with two top-ten finishes. In the most recent race at Phoenix in the spring, Blaney finished 23rd after starting from the second position.

Blaney hasn’t led a single lap in the Cup Series at Phoenix, making the likelihood of winning Phoenix that much more of a long shot.

However, with stage points up for grabs the playoff standings can change dramatically between the start of the race and the beginning of the final stage.

To keep his chance of racing for a championship alive, Blaney will need to earn as many stage points as he can, hope his competitors have some misfortune  and above all, win the race.

Follow Matt on Twitter, @mattlovisa.

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