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Blaney Drinks In His ‘Surreal’ Win At Daytona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 29 2021

Ryan Blaney is on a hot streak heading into the Playoffs. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – For four straight years, Ryan Blaney collected only a single victory each season, but that changed in 2021 with the North Carolina native’s three-win performance that vaulted him into the playoffs as the second seed.

Blaney’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 victory Saturday night gave him his second straight win for the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career. He acquired his first victory this season in March at Atlanta. Yet, it was Saturday night’s victory that was surreal for Blaney. 

“I remember coming here watching Dad race for years and years and years in the (Daytona) 500, then the July race,” Blaney said. “I had kind of a surreal moment sitting in victory lane kind of just looking out at the lights shining on you. You see the big sign Daytona, World Center of Racing.

“(I’ve) had a lot of great family times down here as a kid. Everyone wants to win here, whether it’s the 500 or the summer race. It’s always really special.”  

Blaney led three times for seven laps in the overtime, 165-lap event. He took the lead for good with two laps remaining and then avoided the nine-car final lap crash.

“(I) got a great push by Corey LaJoie,” Blaney noted. “That was the big push that got us ahead to the lead. I think he pushed me so good … me, Corey and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) all got single file. We could kind of halfway control it. We were able to be ahead there when that last wreck … happened.”

Even though all three Team Penske drivers made the playoffs, the 27-year-old Blaney is the only one with multiple victories. He also has produced five top-five finishes in the last six races. Through Blaney’s performance, the low-key driver has assumed a leadership role at Penske since Brad Keselowski announced his departure for Roush-Fenway Racing at season’s end.

“I consider Brad a bit of a role model of mine because he’s the one that gave me a chance with his Truck team in 2012, which led to driving for Penske Xfinity, the Wood Brothers, now (Penske) Cup cars,” Blaney said. “I look up to Brad a lot. He’s done so much for me. Honestly, I wouldn’t be here without Brad giving me an opportunity back in 2012. 

“When Brad announced he was moving on from Penske, I … realized I … needed to be that leadership role that he was. You have to be a leader. Definitely, Brad is a leader, Joey. I think it’s time for me to step up and be that guy, too.” 

Crew chief Todd Gordon also believes Blaney “is growing into being a championship contender.”

“I think we’ve got that ability in front of us in the next 10 races,” Gordon continued. “I got to work with Ryan and Joey (Logano). I think both of them are great people, very good for the sport. I look for Team Penske to have a lot of influence in the Ford camp and leadership from that standpoint for both of them.” 

Blaney’s victory in the regular season finale left him sixth in the standings before the playoff seeding occurred. 

Kyle Larson won the regular season championship. He enters the playoffs that begin Sept. 5 at Darlington seeded first with five victories and 52 playoff points. Blaney and Martin Truex Jr., both with three wins in the regular season, start the playoffs with 24 playoff points each. Truex is seeded third. The playoff field is rounded out, respectively, with Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Logano, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick. Hamlin and Harvick are the only drivers entering this year’s playoffs without a victory. 

The Sept. 5 Cook Out Southern 500 begins at 6 p.m. and will be televised on NBCSN.

(Editor’s Note: Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.”)

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NASCAR Cup Series Race – 63rd Annual Coke Zero Sugar 400

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Saturday, August 28, 2021

  1. (6)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 165.
  2. (20)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 165.
  3. (23)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 165.
  4. (24)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 165.
  5. (17)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 165.
  6. (28)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 165.
  7. (15)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 165.
  8. (5)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 165.
  9. (30)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 165.
  10. (36)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 165.
  11. (21)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 165.
  12. (8)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 165.
  13. (3)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 165.
  14. (19)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 165.
  15. (11)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 165.
  16. (33)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Accident, 164.
  17. (27)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 164.
  18. (29)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, Accident, 164.
  19. (26)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 164.
  20. (1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 164.
  21. (16)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, Accident, 164.
  22. (12)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 164.
  23. (22)  Joey Logano, Ford, 164.
  24. (25)  Cole Custer, Ford, 164.
  25. (9)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 164.
  26. (32)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 163.
  27. (40)  David Starr(i), Ford, 163.
  28. (31)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 163.
  29. (7)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 163.
  30. (34)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 163.
  31. (37)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 162.
  32. (14)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 157.
  33. (10)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 156.
  34. (4)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 156.
  35. (38)  Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 156.
  36. (39)  Landon Cassill(i), Toyota, Accident, 146.
  37. (2)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 146.
  38. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 136.
  39. (18)  Michael McDowell, Ford, Engine, 23.
  40. (13)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 165.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  142.201 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 54 Mins, 3 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes:  45 among 15 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 0;W. Byron 1-6;K. Harvick 7-8;W. Byron 9;D. Hamlin 10-13;W. Byron 14-15;D. Hamlin 16;W. Byron 17;A. Dillon 18-19;C. Elliott 20-41;J. Logano 42-43;C. Elliott 44-52;R. Newman 53;C. Elliott 54-55;M. Truex Jr. 56;C. LaJoie 57;M. Truex Jr. 58-69;C. Bell 70-76;J. Logano 77-94;R. Blaney 95-96;J. Logano 97-101;A. Dillon 102;R. Newman 103;W. Byron 104-105;D. Hamlin 106-107;K. Harvick 108;C. Elliott 109;K. Harvick 110;J. Logano 111;R. Chastain 112-113;R. Blaney 114-116;R. Chastain 117-123;B. Wallace 124;R. Chastain 125-126;B. Wallace 127-128;R. Chastain 129;B. Wallace 130;R. Chastain 131-132;B. Wallace 133-136;K. Busch 137-141;C. Bell 142;J. Logano 143-153;C. Buescher 154;C. Elliott 155-156;C. Buescher 157-163;R. Blaney 164-165.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 5 times for 37 laps; Chase Elliott 5 times for 36 laps; Ross Chastain 5 times for 14 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 13 laps; William Byron 5 times for 12 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 8 laps; Bubba Wallace 4 times for 8 laps; Chris Buescher 2 times for 8 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 7 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 7 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 5 laps; Kevin Harvick 3 times for 4 laps; Austin Dillon 2 times for 3 laps; Ryan Newman 2 times for 2 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,11,18,42,19,3,7,22,37,20

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,3,24,8,5,12,47,18,23,20

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 29 2021
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