Blaney Overcomes Penalty To Win UNOH 200
A penalty cost Ryan Blaney the lead and sent him a lap down early in the UNOH 200 on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway, but the setbacks didn't keep him out of victory lane.
The Brad Keselowski Racing driver surged past two-time and defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton for the lead on a green-white-checkered flag finish and went on to score his first series victory at the high-banked, half-mile.
"I've had a chance to drive this truck four times this year and we've come really, really close every single time," Blaney said. "To finally get into victory lane in my last start of the year in this truck, it really means a lot. And at a place like this, I remember growing up watching my dad (Dave Blaney) race, it's really special. To do it in that fashion, coming from a lap down and being able to drive through the field like that says a lot about our race team and a lot about what we can do as an organization."
The overtime finish - and Blaney's come-from-behind victory in the No. 29 Ford - followed a more than 45-minute stoppage with 34 laps remaining due to rain and was the result of a caution five laps from the scheduled finish.
Crafton was flawless on the restart coming out of the weather delay and chose the outside lane on the decisive restart in his bid to win for the first time in 13 career Truck Series starts at Bristol. Blaney lined up inside Crafton and shot to the lead while Crafton faded to seventh.
Up until that point, it appeared it might finally be Crafton's night at Bristol.
The driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota trailed Cole Custer with 40 laps remaining but inherited the lead before the rain shower soaked the track and stopped the race.
Custer slammed into Spencer Gallagher in Turn 4 and the impact inflicted considerable damage to the right front of Custer's No. 00 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. The 17-year-old led the most laps (111) but finished 16th.
Busch and Blaney are entered in all three races this weekend. Busch opened his effort by scoring the pole position for Wednesday night's race. He finished second in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports machine.
"It was a really good one for us," Busch said of the last restart. "We were on the outside lane and somehow the bottom got jumbled up a little bit. I just made sure that I knew to go to the top and put it on kill up there as hard as I could and just drive the heck out of it. Fortunately it worked out for me and it stuck good enough that I was able to get around the outside of the 33 (Brandon Jones) and I got around the outside of the 88 (Crafton) surprisingly and I think it surprised him as well too and he had to get out of the gas. From there it was kind of a mess behind me. I was just trying to be focused on the 29 (Blaney) and continue to drive up there and try to get him. There was just not enough laps."
Blaney passed Busch on the opening lap of the race and led the first 37 circuits. He would spend the majority of the race trying to make up for a penalty incurred on a restart 38 laps into the race. NASCAR ruled that Blaney jumped the restart and imposed a drive-through penalty that dropped Blaney a lap down into 21st place.
"The 00 (Custer) laid back a lot. He was about a car length behind me," Blaney said. "To me, he didn't maintain caution car speed at all. As soon as the caution car pulled off, he stopped and I maintained speed. He was going to try to get a run just like everyone tries to do which is what you have to do on the bottom if you want to have a shot at it and I wasn't going to give him that run. I wasn't going to let him start creeping forward. So I went."
John Hunter Nemechek, Daniel Hemric and Jones completed the top five. Tyler Reddick finished eighth and maintained his lead in the points standings. Crafton trails him by six points after 14 races this season.