Pa Bob Pokras
Posted by FOX Sports NASCAR

TALLADEGA, Alabama – Ryan Blaney jokes that adversity builds character.

Given his elimination races at Daytona and Bristol this year – Daytona due to a crash and Bristol due to a mechanical issue – he has had his fill of adversity for the season.

“I always say adversity builds character, and we’ve had a lot of adversity over the last month,” Blaney said.

“I like character building, but I want to take a break from character building.”

The Team Penske driver had another big moment Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway as he saw a possible victory slip through his fingers.

It’s pretty much the nature of superspeedway racing that the driver leading the last lap gets the pass for the win. And this time it was Chase Elliott get a good push past Blaney.

Chase Elliott wins in wild finish at Talladega

Chase Elliott wins a dramatic finish at Talladega to advance to the Round of 16 in the NASCAR Playoffs.

Blaney didn’t want to make a move that would have potentially blocked Elliott because Elliott had too much room to work with to leave Blaney unassisted in his push to the finish.

“It’s a very bad thing to worry about a split,” Blaney said. “You sort of lose your chance to win when you’re separated.

“I trust Chase [Elliott] a lot. I didn’t trust him enough to not split me when it came to winning a race or hanging someone out in the playoffs and winning.”

Blaney won the All-Star race this year, but has yet to win a points race this season.

So it was a mix of disappointment on Sunday, as Blaney was probably trying not to be upset about not winning — and not getting the automatic bid to the next round that comes with it — but looking at the day as a day in which he earned 45 points.

He enters Sunday’s elimination race on the road in Charlotte with a 32-point shutout.

“I’m proud of the finish … and I’m looking decent in terms of points going into the Roval, I just need to have a good day,” Blaney said.

“But gosh, I want to win so bad.”

That number of points should make Blaney feel good, but last month he went into Bristol with 36 points and then found himself in the garage at the start of the race, sweating it out to make the round of 16.

“We learned a lot,” Blaney said of the adversity. “I think it’s made everybody stronger on our end, strengthened everybody so they can face adversity and overcome it.

“It’s good to an extent. But you don’t want it to happen all the time. You want to learn from it and move on.”

Blaney will be hoping to reach the Round of 16 on a slick fashion Sunday. Few would argue that he deserves a smooth relegation race.

He had to sweat through the rest of the regular season and was “knocked out” of the playoffs during an extended rain delay in the regular season finale at Daytona. He then entered afterwards Martin Truex Jr. was unable to hold its position due to damage sustained in the crash prior to the rain delay.

Ryan Blaney almost misses the playoffs

Ryan Blaney says he is mentally drained after a roller-coaster day that ended with him heading into the play-offs by a few points.

Blaney opened the play-offs with 13th and ninth, suggesting he would be good for Bristol. Then a flat tire led to damage that nearly took him out of the playoffs until other drivers had problems.

And adversities do not mean only that they are lacking; his runner-up finish at Talladega was his 10th top-5 finish of the season. Blaney is also without his crew chief and two key crew members who began a four-race suspension at Talladega after a wheel came off the car at Bristol.

Blaney said he worked well with interim crew chief Miles Stanley at Talladega and was pleased with the new fitter and tire fitter.

“It definitely sets them up for a few weeks,” Blaney said. “[At Talladega] it’s a bunch of strategies that go on to some degree, but they’re not there [pit] stops.”

While Blaney, as a competitor, knows he has to have his back against the wall, he doesn’t like the three-race playoff rounds that most drivers seem to find themselves on the brink of elimination at some point.

“Honestly, it’s not a lot of fun,” Blaney said. “You want things to go smoothly. You never want anything to be complicated.

“You want things to be easy. But you have to know that sometimes things will be difficult and you have to face them. It’s not fun.”

It’s fun to know that so far, even with just an All-Star Game victory, his team has made it.

“After we get out of a hole or a situation that we’re in, it’s fun to look back and be like, ‘Man, everybody did a good job getting together there,'” Blaney said.

“It’s very interesting to look back when things go right. I want good, relaxed, smooth racing. This team deserves it.”

Ryan Blaney on overcoming recent challenges

Ryan Blaney talks about the challenges he faced in the playoffs and the replacements in his team.

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Thinking aloud

Hendrick Motorsports is appealing William Byron sentence, and that appeal will be heard later this week. Hendrick has won several past appeals, but winning this one will be tough.

NASCAR rules state that among the penalties for intentionally destroying another vehicle and tampering with the championship can be a penalty of 25 to 50 points.

NASCAR will likely argue that it chose the lower end of the penalty, and Hendrick will argue that the penalty was excessive because it was worth more points than if Byron had been parked for the race.

William Byron penalized, loses driver points after Denny Hamlin spin

Bob Pokras offers his quick thoughts on William Byron’s penalty.

Social attention

Statistics of the day

Chase Elliott has 46 playoff points, 21 more than any other driver – a key stat that could affect Elliott’s qualification for the championship race.

They said it

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is too many.” — Rick Hendrick on William Byron’s penalty kick

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has covered motorsports for decades, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, and has worked for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @dashand sign up for FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.

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