Ryan Blaney outruns Kevin Harvick to claim first Cup win in Pocono 400


Ryan Blaney fended off Kevin Harvick in the final 10 laps to win the Pocono 400 for his first NASCAR Cup Series win.

Blaney passed pole-sitter Kyle Busch on the frontstretch to take the lead for good and then outdueled Harvick. Both Busch and Harvick were seeking their first win of the year.

“It’s hard man to process,” Blaney told Fox Sports 1. “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.”

Blaney is the third first-time winner this season after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Talladega) and Austin Dillon (Coke 600).

Blaney, driving the No. 21 Ford, gave Wood Brothers Racing their first win since the 2011 Daytona 500 with Trevor Bayne. It’s the 99th win for the team and just its third of the 21st Century.

A malfunction in the team’s radio system prevented Blaney from talking to his team all day. It also kept Blaney from initiating his desired celebration.

“I wanted to pick (team owners) Eddie and Len (Wood) up,” Blaney said. “I wanted to find them and pick them up, but it figures the one race we don’t have radio communication we end up winning it. Maybe we should turn the radio off more often, but I wanted to try to find Eddie and Len. I wanted to give them a ride to victory lane. That would have been cool, but maybe if we can get another one we’ll be able to do that.”

Blaney, the son of former Cup driver Dave Blaney, is the seventh driver to earn their first Cup win with Wood Brothers Racing.

Completing the top five was Harvick, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski.

Harvick’s result is his best of the season and his fifth top five.

“There at the end we couldn’t get in the corner like we needed to all day,” Harvick told FS1. “(Blaney) could charge the corner, so I needed for him to make a mistake and try to get underneath him on the exit of the corner. Never made a mistake and did a great job.”

Stage 1 winner: Kyle Busch

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Larson

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Rookie Erik Jones earned his best result and his first top five in 17 Cup starts … Kurt Busch earned his second top five of the year and his first since winning the Daytona 500 … Kyle Busch led a race-high 100 laps and won the first stage, but dropped back to ninth after being passed by Blaney … Martin Truex Jr. led five laps and finished sixth after starting from the rear because of an engine change.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray wrecked out with five laps left in Stage 2. It’s McMurray’s third DNF and Johnson’s second … Dale Earnhardt Jr. left the race on Lap 59 with a mechanical problem after a bad shift on a restart … Kasey Kahne also crashed due to brake issues with 19 laps left in the race … Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 26th, one lap down in his Cup debut after being caught speeding on pit road three times.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I think it exceeds the dream a little bit. I grew up watching my dad race on this race track and it’s so cool to get the Wood Brothers in victory lane … and to do it here at a race track that is really close to Ohio – a home to me – is pretty awesome.” – Ryan Blaney after earning his first Cup Series win.

NOTABLE: The accidents involving Johnson and McMurray resulted in a 23-minute red flag period and a one-lap shootout to end the stage, which was won by Kyle Larson.

WHAT’S NEXT: FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway at 3 pm ET on June 18 on Fox Sports 1.




Two Cup cars to miss practice time Saturday

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Chase Elliott and Paul Menard each will miss 15 minutes of final Cup practice today at Martinsville Speedway inspection issues last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Final Cup practice is scheduled to take place from 12:30 – 1:20 p.m. ET today.

The forecast from wunderground.com calls for a  high of 43 degrees and a 50 percent chance of rain during the final practice session.

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NASCAR’s Saturday schedule for Martinsville Speedway

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A busy day is scheduled for NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway with the Camping World Truck Series race followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Cup race.

Here’s the full schedule for day with TV and radio info.

All times are Eastern

7 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

7:30 a.m. — Truck garage opens

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

11:05 a.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-truck/three rounds (FS1)

12:15 p.m. — Truck driver-crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

1:30 p.m. — Truck driver introductions

2 p.m. — Alpha Energy Solutions 250; 250 laps/131.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:10 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Without NASCAR ride, Blake Koch devoting energy to helping younger drivers

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Blake Koch‘s son Carter is 5, but he’s already developed some understanding of how NASCAR works.

“All he’s ever known is me as a race car driver,” Koch tells NBC Sports. “He’s smart enough to know now that when Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. retired and Matt Kenseth retired and Danica (Patrick) retired, he now knows what retirement means.”

At some point since last November, Koch had to explain to Carter why he wasn’t competing in 2018.

“He’s like, ‘Dad, are you retired?'” Koch says. “I was like, ‘No, buddy, I just lost my sponsor.'”

Koch is four months removed from his last start in Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series.

After two years racing full-time for the team, he was replaced by Ryan Truex, who brought sponsorship with him. Koch was left without a ride after making 213 starts in the Xfinity Series since 2009.

Koch has heard many of the same questions since November.

Are you done racing? Are you still trying to get sponsors? What are you doing?

“My answer is no, I’m not done racing,” Koch answers. “I can’t be done racing.”

At 32 and with 229 national NASCAR starts on his resume, Koch was left with two options when the 2017 season ended.

“Sit around and feel sorry for myself and read all the support and the tweets and let it (allow me) to think that an opportunity should come to me or go out and make something happen and have fun and utilize my resources and knowledge,” Koch says.

He decided he wasn’t going to pursue any ride this season. But Koch is not going anywhere.

In addition to a weekly appearance on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub,” Koch wanted to try his hand as a driver mentor, helping young NASCAR drivers develop with the knowledge he’s accrued the last decade.

Koch jokes that his love of helping people may have been one of his “downfalls as a driver.”

“I helped other drivers,” Koch says. “If someone asked me what I was doing or about the race, I told them my honest opinion because I actually liked helping.”

Koch also observed a lack of people in similar roles in NASCAR.

“Every other sport has a coach or someone to lean on or someone on your side. Golfers, quarterbacks, everybody does. Except for NASCAR drivers,” Koch says. “Even Supercross racers have trainers and coaches and people making them better and better. But in our sport, it was just nonexistent, because there were no drivers that would retire and still want to be at the racetrack helping other drivers.”

Before committing to the idea, he went to former NASCAR driver Josh Wise for advice. Wise works with Chip Ganassi Racing helping their drivers.

“I did pick Josh’s brain a little bit on if he was happy doing it, if he missed being in a car and all that kind of stuff,” Koch says. “He still had the adrenaline rush, he loved what he was doing. … He saw results from the work he’s putting in. … You don’t want to do something and feel like there’s no results behind it and you don’t want to do something if you don’t think it’s going to be fun or rewarding.”

Through Chris Biby, a driver manager, Koch was connected with Matt Tifft, who joined Richard Childress Racing this season after a year with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s also begun working with Truck Series driver Myatt Snider.

Koch and Tifft did not interact much last year, aside from greetings at driver introductions.

Their first real conversation came over a meal at Hickory Tavern in Huntersville, North Carolina.  Now they talk almost every day.

Koch didn’t officially begin his role helping out Tifft until after the season opener at Daytona.

“What I try to be for Matt Tifft is everything I’ve always wanted,” Koch says. “Confidence is key. It’s a big part of going fast, being confident in yourself. I believe that comes from hard work.

“I knew I had that feeling, and that’s something I implemented into Matt’s weekly routine, that when he shows up to the racetrack he knows he’s been working harder than every single person out there, and he’s more prepared than anyone out there. Then you have a little extra pep in your step when you’re walking in the garage.”

Koch says a “very small portion” of the work he does with his drivers is at the track. Most of his “two cents” comes between Monday and Friday.

On Sunday nights, he sets a schedule for Tifft and Snider, what to do with their workout program, race prep and what to work on in the simulator in addition to general notes for the race weekend.

Tifft says Koch is “very particular about every single thing” he’s doing.

“I set up specific workouts for him to do throughout the week and I tweaked his nutrition a little bit,” Koch says. “But he was already pretty disciplined with his nutrition. I set a checklist of things he needs to know every single week before he gets to the racetrack. Small details, even little things like garage flow. … When you get to the race track, the only thing you should have to think about is hitting your marks and running in a perfect line and focusing on your task at hand, not the other small details that are just cluttering your mind.”

Through roughly four weeks of working with Tifft and Snider, Koch has found the same satisfaction that Wise has in his role with Ganassi.

“When this opportunity came across to work with Matt, I could still race,” Koch says. “You have that competition, the adrenaline because you feel like you’re invested in part of it and I could help them out. It kind of helped fulfill the desire I had for helping people and helping someone make the best of their opportunity. I know how difficult it is to get an opportunity in this sport. When someone has that opportunity, I love nothing more than to see them maximize it. That’s what keeps me excited.”

Working with the two young drivers also keeps Koch on his toes in the case an offer materializes from a team.

“It absolutely helps,” Koch says. “I have to stay in shape and constantly watch, read and study data and work as hard as I was, probably working harder now than I was when I was driving. Because I have the accountability of Matt Tifft and Myatt Snider. Those guys are starting to push me harder in the gym, too. I have to get stronger. You can’t have your athletes stronger than the coach. I got to step up my game.”

Koch isn’t done adding things to his work life.

He plans to launch a new business in May, which he works on in the afternoons following his morning workout.

Koch isn’t giving away any details on that business will entail.

“The reason I started it is back when I was racing, if I poured as much effort and passion and hard work into my own business and product that I did into everybody else’s I’d be in a much better position right now,” Koch says. “I’ve learned a lot, about business and marketing and how to create a successful company, especially being friends with Matt Kaulig and seeing Leaf Filter grow over the years, I came up with an idea that I know people need and use and want, and I’m going to supply that to people here very soon.”

In the meantime, with the Xfinity Series off the next two weekends and Koch not making the trip to Texas Motor Speedway, he will spend his weekends nurturing his son’s dirt bike career. Carter competed in his first race last weekend.

“He was begging for it,” Koch says of the dirt bike. “I wanted to get him in a go kart or something a little safer but he’s just about as hardheaded and stubborn as I am.”

A Driver’s Drive: Darrell Wallace Jr. aggressive and confident


Returning to the site of his first Camping World Truck Series win provided a great opportunity for Darrell Wallace Jr. to reflect on his meteoric rise through the NASCAR ranks in the week’s edition of “A Driver’s Drive”.

Finishing second in the Daytona 500 put his name in the record book as the highest finishing African-American driver and raised expectations about Wallace’s potential at the Cup level.

Martinsville is going to raise another challenge to see if he can live up to that potential without stepping over the line. Wallace earned his first victory in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions on this track in the 2013 Kroger 200. He backed that up with another win in the same race the following year. Those victories add to his confidence and possibly his aggression on the bullring.

“Looking back on stats and what not, you’ll see that I’m one of the most aggressive guys coming up through the ranks,” Wallace said.

On Sunday, Wallace will need to temper that aggression if he wants to score another top-10 in Cup competition.

For more on what Wallace says, watch the video above.