FORT WORTH, Texas – Ryan Blaney nearly stole a victory from a playoff contender during Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but in the end just didn’t have enough steam to hang on out front.
Blaney, eliminated from playoff contention at the end of the second round, dueled with eventual race winner Kevin Harvick on a series of three late-race restarts Sunday afternoon. The first one came with 32 to go, after David Starr got into the turn two wall, and Blaney almost cleared Harvick on the high side.
His second shot came with 24 laps left after a spin by Matt DiBenedetto, and Blaney took full advantage. He rocketed past Harvick on the outside of turn one, opening up a narrow lead before Harvick reeled Blaney in and repassed him with 17 to go, taking off and appearing to end the battle at that point.
Blaney got one final shot in overtime, however, after Joey Gase, A.J. Allmendinger and Daniel Suarez all crashed with four to go to push the race into extra distance. This time, Harvick saw Blaney’s move coming and elected the top for the race’s final two lap stint, and that decision made the difference.
Though Blaney got a great push from Kyle Larson heading into turn one on the bottom, it wasn’t enough to hold off Harvick, who powered away to the win and left Blaney to settle for second.
After the race, Blaney admitted that his only chance to beat Harvick was on the restarts.
“We got by the 4 (Harvick) on that one restart, but I just couldn’t hold him off. He was really good,” said Blaney. “I kind of missed (turns) one and two by an inch and he took advantage of it. We needed to be mistake-free and then some, and I just couldn’t be that. Then we had another shot at it. The last one, he took the top, like I knew he was going to, and he motored around me.
“Either way, this was a strong showing by our Carlisle team. I thought we were a second-place car all night, really,” Blaney noted. “I thought Kevin was head and shoulders above everyone else, but I thought we were second best, for sure. That was a fun race.“
Blaney said he knew that Harvick had learned from where he was getting beaten the moment that Harvick elected the top for the final overtime restart.
“I figured he wouldn’t make that move three times,” said Blaney. “We almost cleared him the first restart up top. Then I did on the second one. I figured he’d take the top. The 42 (Larson) gave me a heck of a push, but I didn’t quite get far enough ahead of the 4 (Harvick) into (turn) one. If we would have went in there … he was kind of on my right rear, then I would have been okay, but we went in side by side. If I had sailed off in there as fast as he did, I would have gotten loose and wrecked us both.”
“I kind of knew I was beat getting into one when I was there, because I knew Kevin was going to pin me (down). I figured when he took the top, it was going to take a really good push and position into one to have a prayer at it and it just didn’t happen.”
Blaney and the entire Penske organization were racing with heavy hearts over the weekend, after the sudden passing of longtime fabricator Dewayne Felkel.
The 24-year-old wanted nothing more than to deliver for the Felkel family on Sunday night.
“I really wanted to win one for Dewayne and his family. He passed away earlier this week and was a fabricator at our shop,” said Blaney. “We are thinking about him. I wanted to win for him. Maybe we will get one for that family here in the next couple (of weeks).”