Runner-up Ryan Blaney earns best result for Wood Brothers since 2011 Daytona 500 win

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Following the 59th Daytona 500, a race held on a 2.5-mile superspeedway, Ryan Blaney shared a thought with AJ Allmendinger.

“Looks like everyone ran a race at Martinsville,” Blaney said, referring to the half-mile track in Virginia that chews up race cars and spits them out. “Everyone’s stuff was tore up. Only a handful of cars left at the end.”

Blaney was one of them.

The 23-year-old driver took his beat-up No. 21 Ford – but not as beat up as race winner Kurt Busch‘s No. 41 – and survived multiple wrecks and a fuel-mileage battle to finish second in The Great American Race.

It’s the best result in Blaney’s first 55 NASCAR Cup Series starts and his fifth top-five. All of those have come with Wood Brothers Racing, which earned its best result since winning the Daytona 500 in 2011 with Trevor Bayne.

With just under 10 laps to go, Blaney was running in the back of the lead pack with little hope of winning the biggest race of the year. Yet he was still in an enviable position after being involved in a five-car crash on Lap 136 that dinged up his Ford.

“I tried to make a move with 10 to go to see what would happen,” Blaney said. “No one really went with me. (Joey Logano) tried to. It really wasn’t happening. I was kind of worried it was just going to end that way.”

But Blaney’s prospects rapidly began changing. With two laps remaining, leader Chase Elliott pulled up lame on the backstretch as his No. 24 ran out of gas. The single-file line that had inhabited the top of the track began dissolving. As the field came down to the white flag, Blaney finally received a productive push from Logano.

“We were able to lay back to him and get a huge run into (Turn) 1,” Blaney said.

Martin Truex Jr. was also out of gas and had lost the lead, which now belonged to Kyle Larson — but not for long. In Turn 1, Kurt Busch went outside and passed Larson’s No. 42, which was running out of fuel.

“(Busch’s move) kept my run going, all the way up to second,” said Blaney, who took his place in the waiting line for history.

Down the backstretch, Blaney saw AJ Allmendinger in his rear-view mirror and expected the No. 47 to attach itself to his bumper and push them toward Busch. Help never got close enough.

“I just wasn’t very fast,” Allmendinger said. “I was still wide open. … That was all we had.”

The No. 21 began “sputtering pretty bad” in Turn 3, a sign Blaney also would be out of gas soon. However, there was enough for Blaney to earn the best finish of his Cup career, 0.223 seconds behind the biggest win of Busch’s career.

All that was after Blaney started at the rear of the field in a backup car following an accident in his Can-Am Duel on Thursday.

“Our backup car was honestly, I felt, like just as good,” Blaney said. “I think our car had enough time to stay up there, too. We could never grab the lead at the time being the one car up front trying to block lanes. We could never get the right push at the right time. Probably something I was doing wrong not to get the right run.”

Blaney led two laps Sunday, the 49th and 50th, as he clashed with Kyle Busch.

The son of former Cup driver Dave Blaney now has two top fives at restrictor-plate races. The first came at Talladega in 2015 as a rookie. Sunday’s Daytona 500 was his first race without the neon yellow rookie stripes on his rear bumper.

“The yellow things on the back bumper helped not being there any more,” Blaney said. “Really, you can talk all about people not going with young drivers or whoever. Really at the end of these things you’re kind of forced to go with whoever wants to go. Today, luckily we had a teammate with Joey behind us who would go with us.”

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Preliminary entry lists for Kansas Speedway

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NASCAR’s top two series will be in action this weekend at Kansas Speedway as they hold two different stages of their playoff races.

The Cup Series has its second round elimination race with the Hollywood Casino 400. The Xfinity Series begins its second round with the Kansas Lottery 300 after an off week.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races:

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400

There are 41 cars entered into the race.

StarCom Racing is set to make its debut with Derrike Cope driving the No. 00 Chevrolet. Tony Furr will serve as Cope’s crew chief.

There are four cars without drivers attached to them yet: BK Racing’s No. 23 and No. 83 Toyotas, Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet and Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet.

Gray Gaulding will driving Premium Motorsports’ No. 55 Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr. won the last visit to Kansas Speedway in May. He beat Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick after passing Ryan Blaney with 19 laps to go.

Harvick is the defending winner of the playoff race.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300

There are 41 cars entered into the race.

Cup drivers entered into the race include Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Christopher Bell will driver the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kyle Busch is the defending winner of this race. He has won the last three Xfinity races at the track.

Click here for the entry list.

Bump & Run: Who makes the cut at Kansas, who doesn’t?

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Which four drivers will fail to advance in the playoffs after Kansas?

Kyle Petty: Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr (points deficit too great to make up in one race), Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson (for these two I think it comes down to stage points).

Dale Jarrett: Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Even though Kenseth has the capabilities of qualifying well and getting the stage points, they haven’t been able to finish off races. I think Ryan Blaney is fast enough to get stage points and can manage a top-10 finish and keep him ahead of Jimmie Johnson.

Nate Ryan: Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray. I think Blaney and Kenseth have shown the speed to be worthy of advancing, but the consistency has been absent.

Dustin Long: Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray. While Blaney has finished no worse than 11th in the last three 1.5-mile tracks, he’s scored two stage points in those races combined. Doesn’t give much confidence he’ll score enough to stay ahead of those behind him Sunday.

Why do you think or don’t think Kyle Busch will advance?

Kyle Petty: Kyle Busch makes it! Two reasons: 1. He has speed, others that are ahead of him have struggled on 1.5-mile tracks. 2. He can score stage points and ultimately win! He’s proved that all year.

Dale Jarrett: Kyle Busch runs up front all day and might even get somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 stage points and then is going to finish in the top three, if not win the race. I think that is enough to get him in there.

Nate Ryan: I think he could win Kansas, and at the very least, I think he will amass enough stage points to propel him back over the cutoff line.

Dustin Long: Wouldn’t surprise me if he won or scored another top five at Kansas to advance. I think the odds are much greater he advances even with his deficit.

What is the best place for Talladega in regards to the playoffs? Regular-season finale? Beginning of a round? Middle of a round? Last race in a round?

Kyle Petty: I like where it is in the middle of a round as a fan. It can help your driver or at least give you hope your driver can come back from a bad Talladega. As a driver I would want it as the first race in a round. So no matter what happened I had two races to recover. As a fan or driver, I hate it as a cut race because, as we saw Sunday, so much that happened is because of plain old luck, good or bad.

Dale Jarrett: I wish we would pose this to the drivers and see where they might want it. I honestly think it’s in the perfect spot right now. I don’t like the idea of it being the first race in a round. I think there is more attention to it and more pressure put on it by being right there in the middle. I think it gives a driver and a team opportunities to look at that first race, which this year was Charlotte, and try to see about getting something done as Martin Truex Jr. did and not have to worry about the consequences of Talladega. Then it also gives you an opportunity on the back end to see where you are and what you need to do. My crazy self as a fan and a media person would love to see it at some point in time be either one of two things — the final regular-season race or the final race of the season to determine the champion.

Nate Ryan: I think Denny Hamlin and the Drivers Council are correct in moving it to the regular-season finale. That seems the best of all worlds – offering protection for drivers already with victories while providing an opportunity for a long shot hoping to snatch a spot. And for winless drivers trying to earn a berth on points, no one likely would be safe – which also feels right.

Dustin Long: I like where it is, but if people want to move it, make it the opening race of the playoffs when then are 16 playoff contenders. That could enhance the next two races as those with bad finishes at Talladega scramble to make it to the next round.

Martin Truex Jr., Sherry Pollex receive National Motorsports Press Association Spirit Award

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Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. and long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex have been voted the third quarter winners of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Pocono Spirit Award.

The Spirit Award recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.

The couple was nominated for their “Drive for Teal & Gold” campaign to raise awareness and funds for ovarian and childhood cancer. They received 45 percent of the vote. Also receiving votes were the NASCAR Foundation, Joey Logano and nominated as a group were Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

In its second year, Truex and Pollex’s campaign included 29 NASCAR drivers participating by using custom teal and gold steering wheels produced by Max Papis Innovations (MPI) and driving gloves. The autographed steering wheels and gloves were auctioned off at the end of September.

Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014 and was in remission by early 2016. But she underwent a procedure for a recurrence last July. Pollex was not present for Truex’s win at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago as she recovered from a chemotherapy session.

Artist Sam Bass and The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America won the Spirit Award earlier this year.

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Landon Cassill, wife Katie welcome baby girl

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Landon Cassill and his wife Katie welcomed their second child Monday night.

Cassill, 28, announced the birth of their daughter, Daphne Plum Mayola Cassill, Tuesday morning on Instagram.

Daphne joins their son, Beckham, who was born in 2015.

“She had a very peaceful first night, but does have the voice to keep us honest,” Cassill said in his Instagram post. “This is the good news we’ve been waiting for!”

The birth of Daphne came the week after Front Row Motorsports announced Cassill will not be returning to drive the No. 34 Ford next season.

MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Amy Earnhardt expecting first child