Blaney’s second consecutive win came in the NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season finale at the hallowed ground of Daytona.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 29, 2021
Ryan Blaney’s spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs was well-secured, but that didn’t stop him from going all-out for the win in the regular season finale on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
As the victor in an overtime finish, Blaney has won consecutive Cup Series races for the first time in his career after last week’s triumph at Michigan. The win at this weekend’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 makes him one of only four drivers to win at least three races this season, joining Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., and Alex Bowman.
Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford beat out several drivers who desperately needed a win to qualify for the Cup Series playoffs, which begin next Sunday at Darlington Raceway. As late wrecks dominated the final stages of Daytona’s summer event, Blaney took the lead from the winless Chris Buescher before holding off a final challenge from other trophy-seekers like Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain, and Daniel Suarez. Chaos eventually erupted behind Blaney, as one final wreck that took out several contenders shut down the affair.
Buescher finished in the runner-up spot, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Newman, and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five in the 400-mile event originally scheduled for 160 laps.
Blaney lingered in the upper half of the field for most of the evening, which was a mostly peaceful affair before desperation took over. The first two stages, 50 circuits apiece, were taken by Chase Elliott and Blaney’s Penske teammate Joey Logano. Blaney, Logano, and the other Ford Mustangs in the lead pack topped off on fuel with 37 laps to go. Chevrolets and Toyota were expected to pit shortly after but neither group made it to pit road when Garrett Smithley’s No. 53 Chevrolet spun, collecting Rick Ware Racing teammates Joey Gase and Cody Ware. The Fords jumped back out to the front of the pack while the other lead-lap cars pitted.
Two separate multi-car wrecks at laps 146 and 157. The latter saw Matt DiBenedetto miss out on his first career victory once again, as the 238th career start of his Cup career ended when he got together with leader Chase Elliott. Other notable vehicles involved included Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Christopher Bell.
That latter incident set up the overtime finish which allowed Blaney to capture his third win, as well as the second seed in the Cup Series playoff bracket, earned through victories and stage wins throughout the 26 regular season races.
Other big winners on Saturday were Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick. Larson (21st) clinched the regular season championship, which affords him an extra 15-point advantage in the playoff standings while Reddick (6th) beat out his teammate Dillon (18th) for the final postseason slot. View the whole Cup Series playoff grid below:
Initial NASCAR Cup Series playoff seeding pic.twitter.com/FKr1FxDf1v
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 29, 2021
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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags