Ryan Blaney Holds Off Harvick For First-Career Victory

Ryan Blaney celebrates his first-career victory
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Dogged by Kevin Harvick for the final eight laps of Sunday's Axalta presents the Pocono 400, Ryan Blaney held off the 2014 series champion in a breathtaking battle to claim the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of his career.

After a restart on Lap 148 of 160, Blaney grabbed the lead from polesitter Kyle Busch on Lap 151, with Busch on older tires, doing everything he could to block Blaney's No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Racing side by side with Busch's No. 18 Toyota down the Long Pond straightaway, Blaney stayed in the gas through the Tunnel Turn and cleared Busch's Camry off the corner.

A lap later, Harvick passed Busch and closed within a car-length of Blaney, who drove flawlessly for the final eight laps to keep Harvick at bay. Blaney crossed the finish line .139 seconds ahead of Harvick to become the 19th different driver to win for the Wood Brothers and the first since Trevor Bayne took the checkered flag in the 2011 Daytona 500. Blaney, 23, is also the youngest first-time winner since Bayne, who was 20 years old when he took the checkered flag for the Wood Brothers at Daytona.

When Blaney climbed from his car in Victory Lane, the magnitude of what he had just accomplished still hadn't registered.

"I think it exceeds the dream a little bit," Blaney said. "I grew up watching my dad (Dave Blaney) race on this race track, and it's so cool to get the Wood Brothers in Victory Lane, number one, and to do it here at a race track that is really close to Ohio – a home to me – is pretty awesome."

First, however, Blaney had to get past Busch after the final restart, no easy task, even though Busch had stayed out on older tires during the fourth and final caution, called for Kasey Kahne's brake failure and crash into the Turn 1 wall.

"Kyle stayed out and he was on a little bit older tires, and it looked like he was getting pretty tight, especially off of (Turn) 1, and that's where new tires really seemed to come alive, because you could hold the line and get runs on him, downshift and get next to him.

"I had a big run on him off of (Turn) 3, and he did a good job blocking, and we were able to get under him, but then I had to hold the 4 (Harvick) off. He was super-fast. I can't thank Kevin enough for racing me clean. That was really cool of him, but it was definitely hectic. Hopefully, the fans liked it. It was really cool."

Ryan Blaney (21) beats Kevin Harvick to the finish line
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Harvick, whose engine survived a missed shift at the end of Stage 2, was waiting for Blaney to make a mistake over the final eight laps, but the mistake never came. And Harvick's brakes weren't stout enough to allow him to charge the corners as effectively as Blaney could.

"We never could stop like we needed to all weekend, so you just had to be really careful with the brakes," Harvick said. "If I'd over drive it for a lap or two the pedal would start going down, and then I was really at a deficit. So I had to be very aware of where I let off every lap.

"The 21 (Blaney) could charge the corner a little bit harder than I could, and my best bet, the way I passed people all day was waiting for him to slip up off the bottom, and he never slipped up off the bottom. So I just didn't have enough laps to finish that last pass off, and Ryan did a good job of not slipping a wheel with the amount of laps that he had left and was able to hold on."

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Erik Jones finished a career-best third in the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Kurt Busch ran fourth, followed by Brad Keselowski, who started on the front row beside Kyle Busch on the final restart but lost positions through the first corner.

Martin Truex Jr. came home sixth and retained the series lead by one point over seventh-place Kyle Larson, who won the second stage. Chase Elliott was eighth, and Kyle Busch slipped to ninth, despite winning the first stage and leading 100 of the 160 laps.

Driving the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. finished 26th, hampered by three pit road speeding penalties, two of which came on consecutive trips to pit road early in the race.

RACE RESULTS

Pos. # Driver Make Start Laps Led Status Points Playoff Points
1 21 Ryan Blaney Ford 4 160 10 Running 40 3
2 4 Kevin Harvick Ford 12 160 0 Running 51 3
3 77 Erik Jones Toyota 15 160 20 Running 39 0
4 41 Kurt Busch Ford 5 160 0 Running 40 5
5 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 6 160 11 Running 44 12
6 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota 2 160 5 Running 39 18
7 42 Kyle Larson Chevy 7 160 9 Running 47 7
8 24 Chase Elliott Chevy 25 160 0 Running 40 2
9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 1 160 100 Running 47 3
10 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 3 160 0 Running 31 1
11 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 23 160 3 Running 26 5
12 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 18 160 1 Running 25 2
13 3 Austin Dillon Chevy 17 160 0 Running 25 5
14 31 Ryan Newman Chevy 10 160 0 Running 23 5
15 19 Daniel Suarez Toyota 14 160 1 Running 22 0
16 10 Danica Patrick Ford 24 160 0 Running 21 0
17 14 Clint Bowyer 20 160 0 Running 20 0
18 13 Ty Dillon Chevy 27 160 0 Running 19 0
19 37 Chris Buescher Chevy 29 160 0 Running 18 0
20 27 Paul Menard Chevy 13 160 0 Running 17 0
21 6 Trevor Bayne Ford 22 160 0 Running 16 0
22 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevy 21 160 0 Running 15 0
23 22 Joey Logano Ford 9 160 0 Running 14 1
24 95 Michael McDowell Chevy 11 160 0 Running 13 0
25 38 David Ragan Ford 31 159 0 Running 12 0
26 43 Darrell Wallace Jr Ford 16 159 0 Running 0 0
27 34 Landon Cassill Ford 34 158 0 Running 10 0
28 83 Corey Lajoie Toyota 35 157 0 Running 9 0
29 23 Gray Gaulding Toyota 33 156 0 Running 8 0
30 72 Cole Whitt Chevy 32 155 0 Engine 7 0
31 15 Reed Sorenson Toyota 36 154 0 Running 6 0
32 32 Matt DiBenedetto Ford 30 153 0 Running 5 0
33 55 Derrike Cope Chevy 39 153 0 Running 4 0
34 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevy 37 146 0 Brakes 3 0
35 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy 26 140 0 Accident 4 0
36 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 19 95 0 Accident 7 15
37 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy 8 95 0 Accident 3 0
38 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevy 28 58 0 Engine 1 0
39 51 Cody Ware Chevy 38 35 0 Vibration 1 0


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