NASCAR Cup Series

Ryan Blaney hangs on in final restart for FireKeepers Casino 400 win

3 Mins read
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Ryan Blaney has won multiple races in a season. Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway saw a restart with eight laps to go, and those were the only laps led by Blaney en route to his second win of the year.

Kyle Larson started on the pole, while Josh Berry and Joey Gase were sent to the rear for driver changes as they respectively replaced Corey LaJoie and James Davison. Larson and Matt DiBenedetto battled for the lead early on before the former held the spot through the competition caution on lap 20. Gase produced the first race-related yellow of the day on lap 32 when his right-front tyre went down and sent him into the turn two wall, and later accidents would also lead to especailly violent impacts. Chase Elliott assumed the lead after the competition yellow and held it to the stage finish ahead of Larson, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Joey Logano, DiBenedetto, Kurt and Kyle Busch, and Brad Keselowski.

The second stage ran green in its entirety as Larson and Elliott traded the position. Green-flag stops allowed Kyle Busch to take the top spot with seven laps remaining in the stage and pull away for the win ahead of Christopher Bell, Larson, Elliott, Hamlin, Dillon, Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, Byron, and DiBenedetto. However, Dillon’s race ended immediately as the stage did as he was clipped by Keselowski upon crossing the finish, causing him to briefly go airbourne upon slamming into the wall. Keselowski apologised to Dillon afterwards.

“Watching this makes me sick to my stomach for Austin and his team,” tweeted Keselowski after the race. “He was crazy fast today and deserved better. Definitely not what either of us wanted to see…

“With a lap to go we both wanted the stage point and I should have given him more room to avoid this. Glad he is ok.”

Stage #3 commenced on lap 127 and was quickly dominated by Larson. Larson, Hamlin, Busch, and Keselowski exchanged the top position before Byron took first on lap 175. As Byron hoped to claim his second win of 2021, rain fell upon on the track and resulted in a caution on lap 181, though it subsided and the race resumed six laps later.

After barely a lap of racing, Reddick got loose in turn four after slight contact with Kurt Busch, causing him to be hit from behind by Logano. Logano, Bell, and Berry went around after hits on their rears, sending them spinning through the tri-oval grass and resulting in another yellow. Reddick would spin again on the ensuing restart but the race stayed green.

At the front, Blaney faced pressure from the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Byron and Larson with Busch in tow. Although Byron narrowed the gap to .077 seconds, he could not get by as Blaney secured his second victory of the season.

The win is Team Penske’s tenth at Michigan and the sixth of Blaney’s career. He also has more than one victory in a season for the first time as a Cup driver after riding a four-year streak of one-win campaigns.

“It’s really special to win in the Cup Series in general, no matter if it’s once a year or not,” said Blaney in his post-race press conference. “That’s just something that has been kind of bugging me. I don’t want to be a one-win guy a year. It’s cool to kind of get a couple. Hopefully we can get some more, that’s for sure. If we do the work that we did today, everyone executing the best they could, have a shot at the end there, they’re going to come. Just proud of the effort.

“But yeah, it’s nice to not have one line in that column every year, it’s nice to have a couple. Like I said, hopefully we can get a few more.”

Race results

1312Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord200Running
21824William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
315Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
461Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet200Running
5911Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota200Running
6421Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord200Running
7718Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota200Running
829Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
9202Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord200Running
10519Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota200Running
112114Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord200Running
121247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet200Running
132820Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota200Running
1484Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord200Running
151117Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord200Running
161048Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
172310Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord200Running
181343Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
191523Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota200Running
202534Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord200Running
213237Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet200Running
223099Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet200Running
232741Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord200Running
24166Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord200Running
251777Justin Haley*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
26247Josh Berry*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet200Running
273751Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet199Running
283678B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord198Running
29148Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet198Running
303100Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet196Running
312952Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord195Running
323353Garrett Smithley*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet194Running
331922Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord188DVP
343538Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord178Running
352242Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet152Running
36263Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet120Accident
373415Joey Gase*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet29Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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