TALLADEGA, Ala. – Ryan Blaney emerged safely from the wreckage of Talladega Superspeedway, which claimed other playoff contenders, winning by a huge small margin for his championship hopes.
Blaney beat Ryan Newman in a door-to-door race to the finish line to win Monday and advance to the third round of NASCAR playoffs.
Blaney's first win of the season came because he was in danger of being eliminated from the title fight. The playoff field will be reduced from 12 riders to eight next weekend in Kansas. Blaney had little margin for error after having mechanical problems at Dover last weekend and finishing 35th.
"Our mindset was really that we had to win one of these two races," said Blaney. "We were so late in points. I know Talladega is a wildcard. There was a lot of wreckage today and a lot of guys were injured. But we really didn't get any stage points and we were already well behind the point." Eight ball.
"We knew we probably had to win one of those two weeks. It's just a big relief."
Blaney joins Kyle Larson in the eighth round with six vacancies still available.
After the victory, he saw a young fan in the crowd wearing his shirt and handed the boy the checkered flag.
The race started on Sunday, but was postponed by rain after the first leg. The delay gave Blaney time to recover from a Sunday spin when he tried to hit the road, and ended up with Ford and Team Penske as winners. Ford won seven races in a row in Talladega until Chevrolet broke out in April.
"An incredible effort over the past two days, to be honest with you," said Blaney. "Since we spun early yesterday, missing out on some of the big ones today, we've made way … It means a ton. I've been here since I was very young. I love coming here. I love it even more now." "
Blaney was the leader in a fresh start with two laps remaining and had a big push from Ford team-mate Aric Almirola to gain ground. So Newman came running on the outside line with the help of Denny Hamlin and easily passed Blaney.
But the Ford train remained compromised and Blaney received another push from Almirola to pull alongside Newman. They ran from door to door to the finish line, with Blaney winning through his nose. The 0.0070-second winning margin was the sixth closest in Talladega history, which celebrated its 50th anniversary all weekend.
The victory culminated in a remarkable weekend for the Penske organization, which on Saturday won the IMSA general sports car championship with Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, and then in Australia won the Bathurst 1000 with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard.
It was Ford's sixth consecutive win in the Talladega playoffs and Team Penske's seventh win in the last seven Cup races on the Alabama track.
The race had critical implications in the playoffs, as many of the title contenders fought, and the entire Hendrick Motorsports team risks being eliminated next weekend. Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron are all below the court line, as is Kansas native Clint Bowyer, who could be eliminated at his home track.
Newman, who was followed by Hamlin in a Toyota, said he knew Blaney was ahead of him in line.
"I think I could have fallen and taken his breath and he probably would have gone out of me," Newman said. "That would have impressed me when I tried to block myself. You can repeat it in 30 days and find 27 different answers."
It was a 1-2 sweep for Ford over a weekend when manufacturers' alliances were heavily scrutinized. While all manufacturers met with their teams to discuss strategy and unite for the brand's victory, a Sunday meeting between the Chevrolet group angered fans who argued that the alliances were a form of racial manipulation.
While manufacturers have been doing this for at least five years in a Toyota-led effort, Chevrolet did not board until April, after Toyota had worked with Hendrick Motorsports Chevy drivers to get off 1-2-3 on the Daytona 500. Chevrolet then won in Talladega and again in Daytona in July, the two tracks on which brand alliances work.
The most successful Chevrolet on Monday in Talladega was Austin Dillon in sixth. Almirola finished fourth in a Ford, followed by Michael McDowell, Dillon, Corey LaJoie, Elliot, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon.
The race was halted with seven laps remaining after an accident in front of the field. Stenhouse and Kyle Busch were in the lead when Busch suddenly turned right, right into title contender Brad Keselowski. The chain reaction caused Brendan Gaughan's car to roll over Kurt Busch's car and land on its wheels.
"Mom, it's alright, it's just cute and it didn't hurt, I promise," Gaughan said on a television camera. "It was just a quick and easy move and we set it aside."
Keselowski's car was wrecked, but he made it roll down the road for the sole purpose of passing Gaughan and Martin Truex Jr. in march order, earning two more points that might well be needed next week when the playoff field is cut off.
BOWMAN AND BYRON BAD DAYS
Two of the Hendrick Motorsports title contenders had terrible days, as Bowman and Byron caused several car accidents.
Bowman fired one in the second stage when he tried to block Joey Logano, who hit him and had Bowman spin in traffic.
"My guess is I threw a block I shouldn't have," Bowman said. "I was pushed in there. I knew Logano was coming and just tried to get down a little. They had a bigger run than I imagined. I should have let him go and shouldn't." threw a block ".
Byron's accident occurred when he lost control after a push from Kurt Busch. He turned Byron's car into Logano, whose car suffered significant damage.
Bowman, who also hired pilot Jimmie Johnson, finished 37th. Byron finished in 33rd position and joined Bowman and Elliott as elimination riders in Kansas.
The elimination race for the third round of the playoffs is Sunday at the Kansas Speedway. Elliott is the race winner, and Keselowski won the spring race.