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Blaney Avenges A Setback For His Father

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 22 2021

Ryan Blaney celebrates victory Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

HAMPTON. Ga. – At age 7, Ryan Blaney watched his father’s best chance of winning a NASCAR Cup race disintegrate at Atlanta Motor Speedway when the left-rear wheel fell off his Dodge and roll down the backstretch after a pit stop.

It was a day the young Blaney never forgot. 

This year, on the 20th anniversary of his father’s misfortune, he promised his 58-year-old father he would secure the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 victory for him. The 27-year-old Blaney stayed true to his word, running down a dominate Kyle Larson in the closing laps to claim his first victory this season, the fifth of his career and his first at the 1.54-mile track.

“I was happy we were able to avenge that loss for him,” said Blaney who erased Larson’s 3.098-second advantage in 27 laps and then sped past him on the frontstretch with nine laps remaining.

“He (Dave Blaney) was here today. He comes to as many races as he can; just sits in the stands, nowadays.

“Dad never got the best opportunities at the Cup level. He drove for some great race teams – Bill Davis, one year at RCR. He was never with a powerhouse group I’d say like Penske or Hendrick or Gibbs. I hated that for him; that he never got that shot.  He was almost a little bit too old (36 years old) when he got into the sport because he was running Sprint Cars for so long. He never got a great shot with an amazing team like I’ve been really fortunate to do.

“I grew up watching Dad race. Now, I’m racing full-time in NASCAR. He’s watching me. It’s nice to have him here. I can’t wait to call him and tell him, ‘I told you so. We got one back for you.’”

And it was a victory that Blaney achieved in dramatic fashion. 

Larson dominated the 325-lap race, leading five times for 269 laps and winning the first two Stages. The final Stage began with Larson leading and Blaney second. The roles were reversed on the restart following the fifth and final caution flag that consumed laps 221-224. After the drivers completed their final green-flag stops with 56 laps remaining, Larson was again leading and Blaney second. However, as that run progressed, Larson realized he needed a caution if he was to keep Blaney at bay. 

“Initially, I wanted it to go green because I’d been so good on the long runs,” Larson said. “But then when I realized that he was better than me, and he was catching me there at the end, I was definitely hoping for a caution just to get some new tires on it and, hopefully, come out the leader, control the restart and try to win that way. I knew I was in trouble.”

Blaney knew he possessed the advantage over Larson on a long run. He just needed to be patient.

“I was like, ‘All right, it’s going to be a 50-plus-lap run. I’m going to try to save my stuff a little bit,’” Blaney recounted. “Hopefully, we’ll even out and he’ll start coming back to me. He started coming back to me really hard at the end. A long run towards the end was the only shot I had to beat him. I wasn’t going to beat him in a 10-lap shootout because his car was good.”

Crew chief Todd Gordon admitted he was excited about the final run being 56 laps on a set of tires because he knew what Blaney could do with his Ford on a long run. 

“I was actually contemplating short pitting that last cycle as soon as we got in our fuel window just to force everybody into a long run there,” Gordon said. “I shrunk up, a little chicken there. I was glad to see the cycle start a little early and I jumped on it. I felt like that was going to put us in a good window for the last 20 laps of the race.”

And it did. 

The NASCAR Cup Series now moves to Bristol Motor Speedway where it will run its first dirt race since 1970.

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NASCAR Cup Series Race – 63rd Annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Hampton, Georgia

Sunday, March 21, 2021

  1. (10)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325.
  2. (6)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325.
  3. (14)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 325.
  4. (1)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325.
  5. (19)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.
  6. (13)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 325.
  7. (17)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 325.
  8. (9)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 325.
  9. (2)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 325.
  10. (7)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.
  11. (20)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 325.
  12. (12)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 325.
  13. (28)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 325.
  14. (21)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 325.
  15. (3)  Joey Logano, Ford, 324.
  16. (15)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 324.
  17. (25)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 324.
  18. (27)  Cole Custer, Ford, 324.
  19. (18)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 324.
  20. (16)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 324.
  21. (8)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 323.
  22. (39)  Austin Cindric(i), Ford, 323.
  23. (24)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 323.
  24. (22)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 323.
  25. (23)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 323.
  26. (29)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 323.
  27. (32)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 322.
  28. (4)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 321.
  29. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 319.
  30. (26)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 319.
  31. (33)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 316.
  32. (34)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 316.
  33. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 314.
  34. (31)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 313.
  35. (36)  Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 308.
  36. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 305.
  37. (37)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 285.
  38. (5)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Engine, 220.
  39. (11)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 113.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  144.595 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 41 Secs. Margin of Victory:  2.083 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 25 laps.

Lead Changes:  11 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin 1-27;K. Larson 28-63;K. Busch 64;W. Byron 65-66;K. Larson 67-118;R. Blaney 119;K. Larson 120-160;D. Suarez 161;K. Larson 162-221;R. Blaney 222-236;K. Larson 237-316;R. Blaney 317-325.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 5 times for 269 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 27 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 25 laps; William Byron 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,18,12,1,11,48,19,9,17,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,12,48,18,24,21,3,17,11,99

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 22 2021
One Comment

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  • Jim VanSickle says:

    Enjoy reading anything Deb Williams writes. She’s solid. Many good years and stories from her on Winston Cup Scene.