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Blaney Captures Xfinity Win At CMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 27 2017

Ryan Blaney out ran the field in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Two NASCAR drivers born one year and two weeks apart stole the spotlight Saturday in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Hisense 4K TV 300 Xfinity Series race with one winning and the other finishing fourth in his series debut.

Ryan Blaney, 23, came from the rear of the field to capture his fifth career Xfinity Series victory and first at the 1.5-mile track. His accomplishment made him and his father, Dave Blaney, the first father and son to win a NASCAR Xfinity race at Charlotte. Blaney won his race in October 2006 when the series still carried the Busch sponsorship.

Christopher Bell, 22, fought back from an early race spin in his Xfinity Series debut to produce a fourth-place finish, making him the only non-Cup driver in the top six.

“After we got spun out on lap 2, I was pretty confident that we would be able to work our way back up there, but every run I had to start tailback and get to about 18th before I stalled out,” said Bell, who noted his Charlotte test prior to his debut was critical to Saturday’s performance.

“Whenever I would go to the back I knew my (Toyota) Camry was super-fast and I knew it was capable of running up front. But whenever you’re passing guys, you can pick through a couple of them, you’re on new tires and everything is super good. Then all of a sudden you catch a guy at the wrong spot and get trapped on the bottom. You slip once, then you try again and you slip twice. All of a sudden you’ve over heated your rear tires and you’re pretty free. Our pit stops were really strong and that got us a lot of positions. At the end, I was able to restart on the top and whenever you get on the top, it’s a lot easier than the bottom.

“The dirty air was so much less effective than in the trucks. That was a breath of fresh air. (Therefore) I really thought I would be fine when I spun out on the second lap if the splitter wasn’t torn up when I went through the grass. Thankfully, it wasn’t. I really thought I could drive up through there faster and easier than I did. If it wasn’t for the pit stops and the outside line restarts, I don’t think I would have gotten up there (to finish fourth). ”

Like Bell, Blaney had to come from the rear of the field early in the event. However, his was due to unapproved adjustments his crew made to his Team Penske Ford after he qualified third. Despite what appeared to be a handicap at the beginning, Blaney led four times for 107 laps in the 200-lap race.

“I lost the lead on that last pit stop,” said Blaney, who averaged 113.720 mph in the race slowed by 12 caution flags for 52 laps. “I thought we had a good pit stop, I just kinda got boxed in. I didn’t angle out very well. That was on me. I thought I was going to run out of laps before I got back up there.”

Even though Blaney is now a full-time Cup driver, he remembers the numerous lessons he received when he raced against several competitors from NASCAR’s premier series. It was at Texas Motor Speedway in the fall of 2012.

“You learn so much from them whether it’s restarts, long run stuff, moving around the race track and utilizing air. That just teaches you so much,” Blaney said. “I didn’t race much around Christopher today, but it seemed like he did a really good job. I saw him get turned early, which wasn’t his fault. It was pretty impressive for him to run up front and finish as well as he did.”  

Kevin Harvick, who finished second, cited several young drivers in addition to Blaney and Bell who performed well Saturday.

“A lot of these guys are going to be really good,” Harvick said. “As you look at the experience these guys are getting at a young age, they’re going to be well-seasoned by the time they’re about 25. They need to win these races to get the experience they need to win on Sunday. The sport’s in good hands.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 27 2017
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