Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ryan Blaney takes advantage of "situation", scores inaugural Roval win

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

By Lisa Janine Cloud

Ryan Blaney won the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, but his first trip to victory lane this season took a bit of a back seat to the drama surrounding the final transfer spot into the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. 

Remember 2011 when Tony Stewart took the championship from Carl Edwards with a tiebreaker? Sunday’s race was similar in that Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, and Jimmie Johnson tied for the transfer spot. Two would advance, one would not, and every position counted.

Remember that Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora where Kyle Larson kept smacking the wall but staggered to the win? That’s essentially how Larson scored his transfer spot. Caught up in a huge wreck on Lap 104 that red-flagged the race, Larson pushed his wrecked car to the limit, blowing a tire, smacking the wall and yet still passing Jeffrey Earnhardt’s stopped machine to take the checkered flag and tie Almirola and Johnson in points. His second-place finish at Las Vegas this round gave him the nod over Johnson.

“I knew I was in bad shape, so I kind of, I guess you could say, giving up, but I couldn't even drive my car, it was so bad destroyed,” Larson explained, describing his finish. “But then they said they were all crashed and they were coming to the checkered. I was over here getting on the oval, and they said they were starting to crash, so I ran hard. We had, I guess, so much camber and tow in our car they said if I ran fast I would blow a right front. But I was like, ‘You've got to go.’

So, I ran hard through, whatever, [Turns] 1 and 2 over there and through the Bus Stop, and then blew a right front center of [Turns] 3 and 4 and plowed the wall, I was like, ‘Crap, I don't know if I'm going to be able to get down to make the chicane’, but luckily it came down off the banking and I could turn right okay,” Larson said.

“I got through the 16th corner, and then 17. I hit the wall again on the front stretch, and the 96 [Earnhardt] was stalled the whole time. I think they told me the 96 was stalled when I was like at the backstretch over there, and he wasn't able to get his car re-fired. He was like 100 feet from the start‑finish line. I could start to see him creeping when I was getting to [Turn] 16. I was like, ‘Gosh, don't go, don't go’, and we were able to make it. Hey, I was pretty lucky.”

Johnson, locked in on points during the last lap, was in reach of a win for the first time in 50 races. He went all-in to try to pass Martin Truex Jr. instead of playing it safe and finishing second. The seven-time champ overdrove the chicane and spun out, coming back across the track in front of Truex, who tried to avoid him but ended up being punted across the oval in sight of the finish line. Blaney surged through the opening between Truex and Johnson, claiming the victory. Johnson came in eighth, Truex wound up 14th.

The first two stages of the of the race were fairly tame, though the racing was solid through those 51 laps. On Lap 66, Austin Dillon’s hopes of advancing ended in a tangle with Chris Buescher. A few laps later a flat tire under green put playoff contender Erik Jones a lap down, taking him out of the picture as well. Denny Hamlin came into the race needing a win but his championship hopes evaporated with his 12th-place finish.

Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer finished second and third with racecars that looked like they’d been at Martinsville or Talladega. Alex Bowman’s fourth-place finish secured his spot in the next round. Kurt Busch finished fifth with Chase Elliott behind him in sixth, both teams moving on to the Round of 12.

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
After the race, Blaney described his run.

 “We were able to kind of put ourselves in a spot to where towards the end of the day we were just racing the 88 and 14, and we were just right in front of or behind the 88 just because we didn't want to let him out of our sight, so when he pitted towards the end of the race, we pitted, just to stay on the same strategy. Same with the 14. We put ourselves in a spot to capitalize on something happening, and we did.

But really big to be able to win for Roger. Obviously, that's not the way I'd want to do it.  Obviously, I want to go out and dominate the race. Whenever you win something like this, it's a weird feeling.  I don't really want to call it an undeserved feeling, but it's just kind of an odd feeling. But we put ourselves in a good spot, and it worked out for us. When I was running third, I was just thinking about points. We were good on points, and I was cool with just riding around in third. But then that situation happened, and we happened to be there.”

The Round of 12 starts next week at Dover with the Gander Outdoors 400 featuring:

1. Kyle Busch 
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Martin Truex, Jr.
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Clint Bowyer 
6. Joey Logano 
7. Kurt Busch
8. Ryan Blaney 
9. Chase Elliott 
10. Kyle Larson
11. Aric Almirola
12. Alex Bowman

Tune in at 2:00 PM on NBCSN, MRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to see what victims Miles the Monster claims. 




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