Blaney Breaks Through at Pocono

Ryan Blaney

Blaney celebrates in Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Ryan Blaney captured his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in Sunday's Axalta presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Blaney held off Kevin Harvick in a closing laps duel to the checkered flag to claim his first win in career start No. 68. The win is No. 99 for Wood Brothers Racing and its first since 2011 when Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500.

“It’s hard man to process,” Blaney said. “First we had to pass Kyle and that was tough. He was on older tires. He was struggling off of (Turn) 1 and were able to get under him there. Then we had to hold Kevin off and he was really fast all day. I just didn’t want to make a mistake, that would’ve been the worst thing to do. I got to thank (Harvick) for racing me clean, that was nice of him to do.”

Harvick, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.

“Yeah, we ran him down, just never could charge the corner hard enough to get to his bumper,” Harvick explained.  “That was our only weakness.  I mean, we had the car where we needed it pretty much in every corner, just couldn't charge any of the corners like I needed to with the stopping power that I had. 
            
“Just really had to manage that, but everywhere else, the car handled flawlessly all day and didn't really make any adjustments on it other than a little bit of air here and there.” (Read More)

Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth completed the first 10 finishers.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Michigan International Speedway next Sunday afternoon.

How Blaney Won:
Blaney got the lead away from Kyle Busch, who stayed out on the final round of pit stops and was on older tires. The two were locked in a furious battle for the top spot as Busch tried desperately to block Blaney from passing. He eventually did with 10 laps to go and had the lead. But it wasn’t easy to make it to the checkered flag as Harvick pressured Blaney the rest of the way to the finish.

Who Had a Good Day: Harvick scored his best finish of 2017 but is still winless at Pocono while finishing runner-up in three of the last six races there…Jones recorded his best career Cup finish in third (Read More)…Keselowski scored his series-leading eighth top-10 finish of the season.

Who Had a Bad Day:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started from the rear after blowing an engine in practice when he missed a shift, did the same thing Sunday. He finished 38th (Read More)…Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray were involved in separate very hard crashes on lap 95 that actually brought out the red flag. Neither driver was injured but both cars were destroyed with McMurray’s catching fire (Read More)…Kyle Busch led a race-high 100 laps but has now failed to win his last five races after leading the most laps.

What Else Happened:
Strategy was on display from nearly the start of the race, the first held at Pocono since the stage format was introduced this season. Several teams tried pitting early before stage endings to get an advantage and the first half of the race featured a wide range of game plans on display. But the final 15 laps were all about hard racing for position on track with Blaney fighting off first Kyle Busch then Harvick for the win.

Quotable: "I don't know what they party's going to be like...We've had a lot of bad luck, it's great to get back to where we should run." - Blaney in Victory Lane.

Notable: Kurt Busch scored only his second top-five finish of 2017 with the other his Daytona 500 win…Darrell Wallace Jr. made his Cup debut finishing 26th. He fainted after the race on pit road and was taken to the infield medical center where he was examined and released. (Read More)...The No. 19 Toyota of Daniel Suarez had one missing lugnut in post-race check.

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