Blaney Cashes In On Crashes To Win Roval

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 30 2018

Ryan Blaney took the lead when Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. crashed on the final turn of Sunday’s race in Charlotte. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Winner Ryan Blaney looked as stunned as many of those who competed in Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race, and virtually all those who were watching it from the grandstands at Charlotte Motor Speedway and from their comfy chairs in their living rooms.

Blaney successfully navigated his way through a final-lap wreck which claimed the top two drivers, took the lead and went on to win Sunday’s race.

The victory in the cutoff event of the first round of the playoffs gave Blaney automatic entry into the Round of 12 of the 10-race playoffs, which resume next weekend in Dover, Del.

“I didn’t expect that,” Blaney, who won for the first time this year, said.

The last-lap wreck occurred on the final turn and involved leader Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, who was running second and charging for his first win of 2018.

“You hate to see two of the best cars wreck,” Blaney said, “but you just try to capitalize on the circumstances given to you. We were in the right spot (running third) at the right time.”

Johnson’s aggressive move cost him a berth in the second round of the playoffs and a shot at a record eighth championship.

“I was more worried about the win than anything else,” Johnson, who would have advanced had he finished second, said. “It started wheel-hoping and took Martin

Jimmie Johnson (48) and Martin Truex Jr. crash on the final lap during the NASCAR Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday. The wreck bumped Johnson out of the playoffs. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

and I out. That the last thing I wanted.

“We were in the transfer position and we didn’t get it. Just going for the win. These wins are so important.”

Truex asked for his view, said, “Last corner desperation behind us, that’s what you get. I gave him the inside lane and he had the run through (Turn) 4 and I was real tight down there. I let him have the inside going down inside coming out of four there to the chicane. He just over-drove it and was never going to make it and used me as brakes and turned us both around. It sucks, we could have raced side-by-side off the last corner for a win and that would have been cool.”

Another key moment in the race came on a restart with six laps to go. That’s when leader Brad Keselowski of Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson wrecked heading into Turn 1. Both drivers locked up as they attempted to brake for the corner but instead, slid into the wall.

Also caught up was contender Kyle Busch who was running fourth.

“The whole field went down in Turn 1 and it looked like we all went straight,” Keselowski said. “Maybe we all over-drove it or maybe the track had something on it. I don’t know.”

“We’d just been there the longest run we had been on tires and,” Busch said, “I guess all of us are just stupid and don’t know where to break for the corner considering what our tires look like and so we just all drove off into a 90-degree wall for something to do because we had nothing else better to do. That kind of sucked, but guess it’s a good thing it didn’t matter for us.”

Sunday’s was the first Cup race at the 17-turn, 2.28-mile circuit carved from the infield at the 1.5-mile CMS oval. And, most critically, it was the cutoff race for those hoping to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Advancing into the Round of 12 were Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing and Keselowski of Team Penske (both by way of securing race wins in the first round), defending series champ Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing, Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing, Penske’s Joey Logano, Kurt Busch of SHR, Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports, Blaney, Clint Bowyer SHR, Alex Bowman of Hendrick, Larson and SHR’s Aric Almirola.

Cut from the playoffs were Erik Jones of JGR, his teammate Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Johnson.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 30 2018
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