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Daytona 500 Postponement Allows Ryan Blaney Extra Recovery After Hard Duel Crash

On Saturday, Ryan Blaney said he is experiencing some discomfort with his back and neck muscles following a severe head-on impact in Thursday's Duel qualifier. With the postponement of the Daytona 500, Blaney has extra time to recover before the race.

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Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney is one of the best superspeedway racers in the sport today. That isn't up for debate as he has four wins combined at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. But heading into Monday's postponed race, the Team Penske driver has yet to taste the spoils of victory in the sport's biggest crown jewel event -- the Daytona 500.

He hopes to change that, but he'll have to overcome some adversity if he expects to hoist the Harley J. Earl trophy on Monday.

Blaney lost his primary No. 12 Ford Mustang Dark Horse in a hard crash in Thursday's Bluegreen Vacations Duel Qualifier. Blaney's crash was triggered by a chain reaction bump draft gone wrong from Brad Keselowski onto Kyle Busch. That contact sent Busch into William Byron, which sent Byron shooting into the right rear of Blaney's car.

In an instant, Blaney's car turned into a streaking yellow blur, which careened head-on into the outside wall. It was an unreal impact, and Blaney said on Saturday that his collision into the wall registered 55 gs, according to a special data-acquisition mouthpiece monitored by Wake Forest that the driver was wearing.

Fortunately, Blaney was able to walk away fom the visually stunning accident, but he has been dealing with soreness in his neck, back, and shoulder area since the crash.

“I’m sore, that’s for sure. I’m probably more sore today than yesterday," Blaney said during a media availability on Saturday. "I feel like the second day is always the day of more soreness – the neck area, all down the back, just muscles getting strained. That’s kind of the biggest thing. Everything else felt fine, just all of your muscles down your shoulders and stuff gets pulled in weird areas that you’re not used to, so that’s the most sore today. I’ve been trying to be ginger with it."

While Blaney's status for the The Great American Race was never in question, the postponement of the Daytona 500 to Monday will give the racer an extra day of recovery before battling it out on the high banks.

"If I get another buffer day, if we run Monday, I’ll be even better," Blaney explained. "Just a little sore, but that stuff will pass.”

In addition to the extra day of recovery, Blaney says that he has been working with a Physical Therapist, which is part of the Team Penske organization, to help him get as prepared as possible for running 500 miles on Monday.

Superspeedway racing requires drivers to have a daredevil-like mindset if they hope to be successful. It's a very high-risk, high-reward style of racing.

Fresh off of a massive hit on Thursday, and another massive 70 g hit at Daytona last August, Blaney reassured that he will not have the possibility of another hard hit weighing on his mind. He'll be ready to mix it up in Monday's 500-mile event.

“It’s more than I’d like to take," Blaney said of his recent hard hits. "But that’s part of our sport. You understand that you do this for a reason and you understand the risks of it and it’s just what we do. I don’t ever think about the bad side of this. If you’re ever worried about strapping in the car [or think] like, ‘I hope I don’t take a big hit again,’ that’s just not a mentality of anybody. All you try to do is find out how to win the race.

Blaney continued, "I understood when I signed up for this thing watching dad race that there’s dangers of it and things are gonna happen. I don’t really see that it’s taken a toll on me personally."

While Blaney will not run timid, attempting to avoid another impact, he hopes drivers start understanding where they can and can't bump draft fellow competitors. Because he's been on the bad end of bump drafts gone wrong too many times in the last couple of seasons.

"It seemed the other night where [Brad Keselowski] shoved [Kyle Busch] into [William Byron], he didn’t really let him go early enough to where he was just coming too fast and then you hit him in the tri-oval to where there’s kind of a lateral load and that’s just gonna turn that guy," Blaney said.

"Pushing is a huge game and I’m fine, you can push the hell out of me, but you’ve just got to be smart where you do it and how you get on somebody, and you have to be knowledgeable of what spots are good to do it and what spots are bad to do it. I’m not upset with hard pushes because that’s what it takes to go forward in this game. You just have to be smart about where you do it and the timing of it and letting someone go."

Blaney says that he has not spoken to Keselowski after the incident, and that he has moved on, and is instead focusing on how to get his backup No. 12 Ford Mustang Dark Horse into Daytona's victory lane. While Blaney only had one practice session to tune up his backup car, as final practice was washed out, he said that the backup car drove exactly like his primary. So much so that he and his team had decided to skip final practice regardless if it hadn't been canceled.

His backup car is that good.

"I thought the backup car yesterday was good," Blaney stated. "I kind of learned all I needed to learn in the small pack that we had, kind of getting pushed, I wanted to feel that. How can I take a push? How can I push somebody? How did it handle in a couple of funky situations off of four? And I was very happy with it. I couldn’t tell a difference and that’s what you want – not being able to tell a difference between backup car and primary, so they did a good job of getting that thing ready."

He may be a little sore, but if Ryan Blaney is able to slingshot himself into the lead on the final lap of the Daytona 500, and is able to make it back to the stripe as the winner of the race, expect the pain to subside. After all, winning cures all.

The Daytona 500 is set for Monday, February 19. Television coverage will be provided by FOX, and MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast of the event. Coverage will begin at 4:00 PM ET.

Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

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