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

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

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 3 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 200 Running
2 18 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
3 1 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
4 6 1 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
5 9 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
6 4 21 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing Ford 200 Running
7 7 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
8 2 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
9 20 2 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 200 Running
10 5 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
11 21 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
12 12 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
13 28 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
14 8 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
15 11 17 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing Ford 200 Running
16 10 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
17 23 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
18 13 43 Erik Jones Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
19 15 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 200 Running
20 25 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 200 Running
21 32 37 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
22 30 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 200 Running
23 27 41 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
24 16 6 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 200 Running
25 17 77 Justin Haley* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
26 24 7 Josh Berry* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
27 37 51 Cody Ware* Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
28 36 78 B.J. McLeod* Live Fast Motorsports Ford 198 Running
29 14 8 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 198 Running
30 31 00 Quin Houff StarCom Racing Chevrolet 196 Running
31 29 52 Josh Bilicki Rick Ware Racing Ford 195 Running
32 33 53 Garrett Smithley* Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 194 Running
33 19 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 188 DVP
34 35 38 Anthony Alfredo Front Row Motorsports Ford 178 Running
35 22 42 Ross Chastain Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 152 Running
36 26 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 120 Accident
37 34 15 Joey Gase* Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 29 Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points

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