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

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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.

 

 

 

Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: