NASCAR: The case for — and against — all 16 playoff drivers

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR – Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

NASCAR playoff contenders: No. 10 – Ryan Blaney

After a winless 2022 campaign that saw Ryan Blaney narrowly sneak into the playoffs because another driver withdrew due to injury, the Team Penske driver finally broke his winless streak at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, winning the Coca-Cola 600 in convincing fashion. While his numbers outside of winning have taken a small step back compared to 2022, he is still a threat to make a deep run this fall.

The case for Ryan Blaney

Blaney finally got the monkey off his back and got that elusive win in one of the biggest races of the year. He not only won that race but dominated, leading the most laps of any driver with 163 of 400 laps led. It was a perfect display of what he and the No. 12 team are capable of when everything is clicking.

Outside of Charlotte, Blaney has continued to have good speed on intermediate tracks. With the large number of intermediate tracks in the playoffs, he is a driver who could benefit big time from the schedule itself.

The case against Ryan Blaney

While he has still been fast, Blaney has yet to record a top five finish since his Charlotte win. He did have strong runs in races at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he has been a nonfactor elsewhere. Some of it has been due to bad luck, but in other cases, it has been due to a dip in speed.

If he doesn’t recapture some of the speed he had this spring, he could be staring down a rather early playoff exit. In 2020, he was shockingly eliminated in round one.

This dip in speed hasn’t been solely tied to Blaney; it has involved the entire Team Penske organization. And in a case like that, it may be even tougher for Blaney and his team to recapture that winning form we saw in the spring.