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Why Was Ryan Blaney Disqualified at Las Vegas?

Team Penske’s driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang dropped from sixth to last place.   

By Andrew Woodin
Ryan Blaney adjusts his ear piece during NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying for the Ambetter Health 400

After last year’s playoff debacle at Las Vegas that saw Ryan Blaney crash out of the race, pumping the brakes on his quest to reach the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4, Team Penske’s driver had hoped things would’ve played out a little differently this year when he jumped behind the wheel of his No. 12 Ford Mustang on Sunday. But hope, clearly, only goes so far.

Following the culmination of the South Point 400, which Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson empathically won to launch the Round of 8, NASCAR announced that Blaney’s No. 12 Ford Mustang failed a post-race inspection at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for having a left-front shock of unapproved length.

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According to Motorsport, the disqualification stems from Blaney’s Next Gen Cup car violating NASCAR Rule Book section, which lays out the minimum extended damper lengths for each shock.

Prior to learning of his car’s violation, Blaney weighed in on how important it was to fight for every available point out there.

“I thought we could have run third,” Blaney told FOX Sports. “Just kinda ran outta time to get to third, but a good day, a well-executed day. We did all we could. Couple things didn’t go our way here or there. Proud of the effort. Stinks having a pretty good day and leaving further away from the cutoff line than what we are, but you just gotta keep having days like that to where you’re running up towards the front, trying to work on your stuff, to maybe you contend for a win.”

Ryan Blaney putting on his helmet

Blaney entered the first race of the penultimate round of the postseason in decent position, but the penalty in Sin City was costly and, like last year’s Vegas event, could very well be the difference maker that keeps him from moving on to the next round of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Instead of scoring a sixth-place finish, Blaney was credited with a 36th-place finish, leaving him with just one point on the day.

The DQ also forces him to surrender the eight stage points he earned, resulting in a precipitous drop in the standings to where he now sits in last place among all eight playoff contenders. He was 17 points below the elimination round, but the infraction pushes him to be a daunting 56 points out.

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While the incident sets up a potentially must-win situation for Team Penske’s 29-year-old wheelman at either of the next two races, that’s not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle for the Ohio native to overcome. Blaney nearly pulled out two wins at Martinsville in 2020, but he had to, instead, settle for second in both races. Last year, he cruised to a fourth-place finish in the regular season race there while scoring third during the playoffs.  

On the flipside of the coin, Blaney must still tackle the 4Ever 400 Presented by Mobil 1 at Homestead-Miami Speedway first, an elusive 1.5-mile banked oval track that hasn’t treated the Ford driver kindly in the recent past. In 2021, he suffered a 29th-place finish in the regular season, and he did insignificantly better in 2022, sputtering to a 17th-place result.  

After a disqualification forced Kevin Harvick to relinquish his second-place finish at Talladega, Blaney’s disqualification is just the second time this season a team in NASCAR’s top flight has received a similar punishment. Should Blaney’s Team Penske decide to appeal NASCAR’s ruling, they must notify the league by Monday. No other teams failed post-race inspections.