Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Ford’s string of consecutive NASCAR Cup Series wins at Michigan International Speedway was extended to seven Sunday, courtesy of Ryan Blaney. He took his second win of the season by taking the lead on a restart inside the final 10 laps of the 200-lap FireKeepers Casino 400.

“This is such a big deal for our company, for our employees,” Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook said. “To come here and race in front of all of our employees and their friends and families and have Ryan go get that win with Team Penske and Roush Yates power. We are taking the Heritage Trophy back to Dearborn.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson finished second and third. Kurt Busch was fourth, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

“We were really fast there right before that last green flag stop,” Hamlin said. “We had run down the leaders from way back. I guess we restarted 18th. It was fast. We just didn’t need that caution – the second-to-last one. We got a good restart on the second-to-last one, and then, I tried to make a move on the 24 [Byron] and he was so concerned with me that he lost the lead, as well. Just crazy racing. Everyone is just sliding on each other, but it was a decent amount of fun.”

Larson was up front for the restart at the beginning of the 80-lap third and final stage of the race after being among the drivers who stayed out during the caution between stages two and three. He still was the leader before pitting during a final cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 159. But when the cycle finally completed on lap 174, Byron was the race leader with Larson in second.

The yellow flag waved six times in the race, the fifth of those cautions for precipitation on lap 182. With only sprinkles hitting a portion of the track, the race was never red-flagged and restarted a few laps later with Byron still in the lead.

Byron continued to run up front until Blaney got out in front of him on the final restart.

“We were going to be fourth and the front row was open,” Blaney said of the final restart. “You have to take the front row. It gave us a shot to win the race and Kyle [Busch] gave us a really good push to get us clear into turn one, and then, I was playing defense. We were wide open, especially with Larson and William laying back and trying to get runs. That made it tough. It was cool to persevere all day. We didn’t start off very good, but we worked on it all day and found ourselves in a spot to capitalize on it at the end and did that. A very cool day and nice to be in victory lane here in Michigan. This is huge for Ford and Mr. Penske and a lot of fun.”

Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch were stage winners.

Larson started on the pole and led until a lap-20 competition caution. Hamlin was the first off pit road during the caution to restart with the lead, but Elliott passed him a lap later and took the stage-one win on lap 60.

After pit stops, Larson was back up front to restart for stage two, but he lost that lead to Elliott on lap 80.

The second stage included a cycle of green-flag pit stops. Kyle Busch, along with other Toyota drivers, pitted a few laps later than most of the other frontrunners and took only two tires to cycle to the lead late in the stage for a stage-two win on lap 120.

The second stage came to a somewhat messy end when contact between Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon sent Dillon head-on into the wall.

“I was just trying to get as many stage points as I could get right there and did a good job of side-drafting and came down to the apron, and I’ve seen just one quick replay, but it was after the start/finish line,” Dillon said. “I was starting to come up off the apron, because it’s so rough down there. But I figured by that point, he would have given me a little room. I hate it. I’m thankful that the good Lord kept me safe today. That was a heck of a wreck, but I feel fine. I hate it for BREZTRI and my guys most of all. The built a rocket ship. They really wanted this one, and I did too. Just working our tails off right there. I think we would have had a shot to do something there at the end with our race car. It’s the best race car we’ve brought to the track at RCR this year, I feel like. It’s just a bummer, but we’ve got Daytona left and I just hate it. I don’t know why it happened, really. I thought I had a little room to come up, and he just held me down there a little bit too long, I guess.”

The incident retired Dillon from the race while Keselowski continued to finish in the top-10.

“We were really good in the sun. Those scattered clouds at the end took away a little too much handling, I think,” Keselowski said. “We had a pretty good Discount Tire Ford. I am bummed. I wanted, of course, to get a win and I hate that I had that contact with the 3 [Dillon]. That really sucks for everybody. It really hurt our day and, obviously, ruined his. That was crappy. So it goes.”

Matt DiBenedetto finished sixth, Kyle Busch was seventh, Elliott eighth, Keselowski ninth, and Martin Truex Jr. finished 10th after falling outside the top-30 early in the race.

“We had an eventful day with our Interstate Batteries Camry,” Kyle Busch said. “We had a good car, and for some reason, the set of tires we put on it were not good. Ben [Beshore, crew chief] decided to put four tires on the next stop, and then, I also slid through the stall. We battled hard and got back up there, but we needed the track position to have a shot to win.”

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