CONCORD, N.C. – Ryan Blaney had the fastest car for almost all of the Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he had to dig deep to capture his first NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season.
After starting from the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments, Blaney — who won Stage 2 and led 104 of the first 160 laps on Saturday — had a rough pit stop after Brennan Poole got into the Turn 4 wall to bring out the eighth caution of the day with 42 laps to go.
The slowdown sent all of the leaders down pit road and saw Austin Dillon assume the lead with a lightning-fast four-tire pit stop, while Blaney dropped to third behind Kevin Harvick.
Dillon’s team came through for him with an 11.5-second pit stop, roughly three-quarters of a second faster than the competition, setting up a scramble to the finish that saw twists and turns at every corner.
Racing resumed with 37 to go and saw Dillon quickly escape to a one-second advantage. Though Blaney struggled in traffic, he caught a bit of a break when Brendan Gaughan spun off turn four to draw another yellow with 30 laps left.
A 25-lap ‘Saturday afternoon shootout’ got off to a slow start, after Michael Annett slid through Turns 3 and 4 and brought out the 10th yellow of the day, but a subsequent restart with 20 to go saw even more carnage when Elliott Sadler got loose off Turn 4 and pounded the inside SAFER Barrier.
That set up the second-to-last restart of the day, seeing Harvick get a massive shove from Blaney to take the lead with 14 to go, but Wallace’s spin with seven to go brought up a race-defining three-lap dash.
As the leader, Harvick chose the outside lane for the final restart, hoping to keep Blaney from getting a push from Penske teammate Brad Keselowski.
But lane choice didn’t matter.
Blaney powered forward on the inside through Turns 1 and 2, seizing control of the race for good and never looking back from there.
“They kept having lots-of-lots of cautions, which helped us because we lost the lead on that pit stop (where) we kind of got blocked in,” said Blaney. “I was really hoping we’d get a shot at it, though.”
“We finally got to the front row … I had been pushing Kevin there, and I got a good restart (at the end) to where I was able to barely stay on his quarter-panel off (Turn) 2 and drag him back (to me) into Turn 3. That let me get a run on him, which was really cool. It’s awesome to be back in victory lane with the Penske group in the XFINITY Series. It’s cool to be here.”
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