CONCORD, N.C. – Ryan Blaney came from the rear of the field to win Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Blaney qualified third for Saturday’s race, but was forced to start at the rear of the field because of unapproved adjustments to his No. 12 Snap-on Ford prior to the green flag. That didn’t seem to phase Blaney, who stormed through the field to fourth at the completion of the first stage.
He would go on to win the second stage before outrunning stage one winner Kevin Harvick during a restart with three laps left to earn his fifth NASCAR XFINITY Series victory and first of the season.
“I’m proud of everybody at this Penske group,” Blaney said. “It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of it over the past four years and watching the crew develop and to be honest with you the XFINITY program wasn’t where it should be the past year. They’ve put so much hard work into it in the off-season.
Blaney looked to be a shoe-in for the victory once he made his way to the race lead during the second stage, but a slow pit stop during a caution period with approximately 41 laps left dropped Blaney from the lead to third behind Austin Dillon and Harvick.
“We lost the lead there on that last pit stop. I thought we had a good pit stop, I just kind of got boxed in,” Blaney said. “I didn’t really angle out very well and that was on me.”
Dillon was able to maintain the lead on the ensuing restart with 37 laps left, with Harvick holding second as Blaney fought to hang on to third. The race didn’t stay green for long as Brendan Gaughan spun out of turn four with 30 laps left to slow the field.
The race resumed with 25 laps remaining, but before the field got a lap complete Michael Annett pounded the turn three wall to bring out the caution flag again.
Another restart with 20 laps left saw another quick caution, this time for Elliott Sadler’s spin and crash in turn four. During that restart Harvick was able to steal the lead away from Dillon, with Blaney still running in third behind them.
The green flag waved again with 14 laps left. Harvick was able to hold the lead, with Blaney getting past Dillon and challenging briefly for the lead. Harvick rebuffed Blaney’s advance, pulling out to a small lead as the laps clicked off.
The final caution flag of the day waved with six laps left when Darrell Wallace Jr. spun in turn two after contact with the wall in turns three and four on the previous lap. That set up a three-lap shootout for the victory with Harvick leading Blaney and Dillon.
Harvick led the field back to the restart with Blaney to his inside. They stayed side-by-side through turns one and two, with Harvick seemingly gaining a slight edge. Once they got to the backstretch Blaney rocketed around Harvick to take the lead as they raced into turn three.
Once out front, Blaney inched away to a .244-second victory.
“Luckily we were able to get back on the front row and give us a shot,” Blaney said. “It was so hard starting third when you only have a couple laps to get to the front row. That was really tough and I thought we were going to run out of laps to make it happen.”
It was Blaney’s first victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the same location his father Dave Blaney scored his lone NASCAR XFINITY Series victory in 2006. It’s the first time a father-son duo have won NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. They’re the sixth father-son pair to win in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
“That was pretty neat for him to win here. I remember watching that race. That was an incredible race and I hope this was a great race to watch. It was fun to be a part of,” Blaney said. “To win at a track my father did is pretty cool.”
Harvick said he knew it was going to be hard to hold off Blaney on the final restart because of how strong Blaney’s car had been throughout the day.
“I knew the 12 (Blaney) had the best car. He was actually the one that helped us get the lead by pushing us to the lead,” Harvick said. “I didn’t really know what to do (on the final restart). He just wound up beating us there on the restart and that is pretty much it.”
Following Blaney, Harvick and Dillon to the finish line was Christopher Bell, who finished fourth in his series debut driving for Joe Gibbs Racing despite spinning on turn two after contact with Ryan Reed. Denny Hamlin completed the top-five.
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