DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Just like he did in last year’s Great American Race, Ryan Blaney held off all challengers to win the second stage of the Daytona 500 on Sunday at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Despite a challenge from polesitter William Byron on the final lap, Blaney played expert defense to hold on to the top spot after working with his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the closing run.
Blaney joined Kyle Busch as a stage winner on Sunday, leading only the final 12 laps of the 60-lap segment. He had six stage victories last season.
The stage was an interesting mix of strategy, with many drivers pitting at lap 73 while a pack of six drivers – led by Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto – stayed out in front of the field and nearly lapped up inside the top 20 after catching those who made early service.
However, a caution with 14 to go in the stage for a crash involving Casey Mears and Parker Kligerman interrupted the strategy of the frontrunners and shuffled the deck ahead of a seven-lap run to the stage break.
Blaney and Keselowski worked together for as long as they could after the restart, but Byron eventually came calling and broke the Penske duo up before crossing the line second, .125 of a second behind.
Aric Almirola was third ahead of Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse, with Matt DiBenedetto, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano completing the points-scoring drivers in the top-10.
Through the first two stages, DiBenedetto has led the most laps in the Daytona 500, pacing the field for 49 of the first 120 laps. That’s more laps than he’s led in all his previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts combined.
Of an interesting note, during their pit stop during the second stage break, Blaney’s Menards crew found a five-dollar bill on the grill of his Ford that they subsequently cleaned off.