FORT WORTH, Texas – Ryan Blaney continued Team Penske’s recent roll of momentum in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday, dominating the My Bariatric Solutions 300 and cruising to victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
Blaney led a race-high 132 of 200 laps and his No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang was the fastest car on track for most of the day.
He paced the first 75 circuits uninterrupted, winning the first stage with ease, and was only shuffled back in the second stage after a restart on lap 76 when he was nearly sucked around in turn two by Christopher Bell, falling back to fifth before stabilizing and starting his march back forward.
“That was really the only scary moment of the whole race,” Blaney admitted.
Pit strategy and a subsequent one-lap dash to end the second stage saw Brandon Jones grab his first stage win in the series on old tires, but following pit stops Blaney lined up eighth for the start of the final stage and wasted little time finding his way back to the front.
Racing kicked off with 103 laps to go and Jones’ day ended abruptly after he got loose and smacked the wall off turn four to bring out the eighth and final caution flag of the day.
The final restart came with 95 laps left, with Daniel Hemric being pushed out to the race lead by Richard Childress Racing teammate Matt Tifft. Tyler Reddick slotted into second between the two RCR Chevrolets, with Blaney moving into fourth and methodically passing cars one by one.
He took third from Tifft with 86 to go, charging to the inside of the Ohio native entering turn three, and used an identical sweeping move to pass Reddick for second seven laps later.
At that point, Blaney was a full two seconds behind Hemric, but made quick work of that deficit and was knocking on Hemric’s bumper for the lead with 73 to go.
It took just five more circuits before Blaney used the same textbook pass that he’d made work for the entire final stint to pass Hemric and re-take command for good.
The only time Blaney gave up the top spot from there was when he made his final pit stop with 58 to go. It took 11 laps for the entire cycle to work its way out, but once Michael Annett pitted with 48 laps left Blaney was in front to stay.
Blaney ultimately took the checkered flag 2.327 seconds in front of Christopher Bell for his seventh Xfinity Series win, first of the season and first at Texas after three prior runner-up finishes.
“I can’t say enough about these guys; the car was amazing all weekend,” Blaney said. “We got behind a little bit, getting loose on that restart and then with those different strategies in that second stage … we had to come from behind a little bit. The car was great and the pit stops were great all day. I couldn’t ask more from this team. It’s finally nice to win one here in Texas.”
Blaney also gives Team Penske’s No. 22 entry three consecutive wins with three different drivers, following on from Brad Keselowski’s victory at ISM Raceway on March 10 and Joey Logano’s Auto Club Speedway win on March 17.
The last time one organization won three races in a row with three different drivers in the Xfinity Series was in 2011, when Roush Fenway Racing did so at Dover, Iowa and Charlotte with Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt Kenseth. However, RFR’s hat trick came with three different car numbers.
Joe Gibbs Racing is the only other team besides Team Penske to win three straight with the same car and three different drivers, doing so with their No. 20 Toyota in 2008 at Mexico City, Talladega and Richmond with Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, respectively.
Bell’s second place finish was best among the series regulars and qualified him as one of the four contenders for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus that is up for grabs next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“First off, thank you to XFINITY, because it’s really special to be racing for $100,000 next week,” said Bell. “Our car was really fast over the course of the race and we were able to move our way to the front. I just couldn’t quite get up to the (No.) 22. I felt like we were pretty equal at times but overall he was just a little bit better than us.
“It was a good solid day. After practice, I didn’t think that we had a second place car, but our team makes it better every single race and we put together a great day today. I’m proud for all these guys.”
Daniel Hemric, who led 39 laps at the start of the final stage before Blaney took the lead, finished third ahead of Cole Custer and Ryan Preece. All three will join Bell as Dash 4 Cash contenders next week.
Pre-race favorite Kevin Harvick never led a lap all day and struggled after starting from the rear due to failing pre-qualifying inspection on Saturday morning. He cracked the top 10 on lap 34 but had to make an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration inside of 25 to go, finishing two laps down in 19th.
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