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Ryan Blaney eager to see where he, No. 12 team stack up at Atlanta

Ryan Blaney earned his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his win in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

That win has taken on even more importance for the driver of the No. 12 Ford.

With Team Penske lacking raw speed compared to Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, Blaney’s results have been relatively quiet over the last 14 races since his triumph. His best finish during this span was fifth in the first race at Pocono Raceway.

And while he’s largely avoided bad results - a wreck at Nashville Superspeedway is his lone DNF over the span - Blaney’s glad to have that win in his pocket as the series returns to Atlanta this Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

In a media teleconference on Friday, Blaney acknowledged Penske’s lack of performance over the summer and his own need to “tidy things up from (his) side, from pit road side.”

Now, he looks to Sunday as a chance to gauge where his No. 12 team is with just six races left before the playoffs begin.

”... I wish that we could have more (wins),” he said. “You obviously want more and to be running a little bit better, but hopefully, I think this weekend will be a really good idea to see where we stack up.

"(We’re) going back to a place where we won at and was really competitive -- to kind of see where we stack up now with us probably thinking we need a little bit of speed, just kind of seeing.

“I think we’ll be good. Hopefully, we can have a really good run and find out where we end up.”

Entering Sunday, Blaney sits a respectable eighth in the Cup playoff standings but with only eight playoff points in hand. Kyle Larson - whom Blaney beat to win in March at Atlanta - leads the series with 32 playoff points.

Blaney says he’s trying not to look ahead for opportunities where he can gain more, but still recognizes the need to get them.

“I just try to take it week to week and focus all of your attention on this race and I think that’s how I’ve been able to maximize (my) focus for each race,” Blaney said. “We’ll start with Atlanta. Hopefully, it’s a good spot for us and we’ll go from there.

“We need to start getting more stage points, playoff points and all that stuff. Those never hurt and we’ve got to get back on top of that.”

Another thing that wouldn’t hurt? Having another car like the one he had in March at Atlanta.

When discussing that win, Blaney noted his car’s ability to run well in different lanes on Atlanta’s worn-out surface - but especially up against the wall in Turns 3 and 4.

He believes that was the difference in him successfully tracking down and passing Larson for the lead with nine laps to go.

“Let’s say, I was kind of slowed up behind a car or something like that - I could bail to the top and get in some clean air and actually able to make lap time up there,” Blaney said. “You don’t want to do that every lap, but that’s something I really remember and hopefully we’ll have that again.

“Because you don’t see that a ton with people running the top that much in (turns) 3 and 4 (at Atlanta) but that option was there for me and I hope I can have that again, just to be able to go up there if you get the lap traffic or you’re trying to pass somebody that you’re racing. That was big for our group.”