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Ryan Blaney held off Kyle Busch in a late restart to claim his second win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the Food City 300 under the floodlights at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night.
The 20-year-old, who previously won last year's autumn race at Kentucky, hadn't led all race until the green flag came out again following the final caution, which had been triggered by Jamie Dick making contact with Mike Bliss. Until that point Kyle Larson had appeared to be the only remaining significant threat to Kyle Busch who had been dominant up to that point, leading for 161 of the 300 laps of the Food City 300.
However when it came to that final restart, it was Blaney's time to nail it while Busch made a rare error and spun his tyres which allowed Blaney to escape. Busch was able to hold on to second place ahead of Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon, Regan Smith and Brendan Gaughan at the line.
"Really I was worrying about salvaging second because Kyle was so good," Blaney admitted. "But we were ready for our opportunity. Luckily we got it and we were able to take advantage of it.
"Kyle didn't go on that final restart," he added." He said his tyres were jacked up. But we got to the second [restart] line and we went. Luckily, we were able to hold him off there. It was one heckuva race."
Busch was unhappy at how the race had concluded, feeling that Blaney had jumped the restart: "The #22 was five mph faster than me by the first double stripe. I didn't go because I didn't want to go, but everybody behind me is trying to go. It's stupid.
"The leader is always at the biggest disadvantage," he pointed out. "You're supposed to be nose-to-nose on the restart. When the leader picks up pace, everybody else [is supposed to] pick up pace ... One of these days I'm going to lock all four down and stack the whole field up."
"No harm, no foul," was Chase Elliott's third party assessment of the restart from behind the leaders. "I saw Kyle make a rare mistake on the restart. It was really hard not to spin your tires. One guy [Busch] spun his tires and the other guy capitalised."
Just as he had done for the Camping World Truck Series race earlier in the week, Busch had earlier claimed pole position for the race over Blaney with a lap of 15.333s (125.142mph) on the half mile short oval, his 41st pole in the series. At the other end of the scale, former IndyCar driver Milka Duno was among five drivers to fail to qualify for the race.
The race got underway after a delay because of showers and track drying. Busch quickly pulled away from Blaney and went on to lead for the first 63 laps which included an early caution for a frontstraight spin by John Wes Townley, newly returned to action after being sidelined for two races with concussion. Busch dropped six places on pit lane under a scheduled competition caution after opting for a four-tyre stop and it was Elliott Sadler who led at the restart from Chase Elliott.
A new caution on lap 85 after Hermie Sadler found the wall in turn 2 gave Chase Elliott a second restart chance to take the lead and he duly obliged but it was a short green before Joey Gase found the wall two laps later, and Elliott was forced to defend his new lead at the subsequent restart on lap 99.
The next incident sparked by David Starr and Chad Boat making contact and collecting Tanner Berryhill resulted in an eight-minute red flag while the debris was cleaned-up, and Chase Elliott resumed in the lead through to the next round of pit tops which took place under green and which allowed Kyle Larson to take over control of the race on lap 151 ahead of Kyle Busch who was biding his time for an opportunity to retake the lead, which came at a restart on lap 196 shortly after the sixth caution of the night.
Busch led for the next 98 laps which included a multi-car accident on lap 283 in which Blaney got loose and made contact with Larson, which had sent Larson spinning into his Turner Scott Motorsports teammate Dylan Kwasniewski.
"I have to apologise to Kyle Larson," said Blaney after the race. "I just got loose on the bottom and got into him. I'm really sorry about that. I was trying to pull a slider and got really loose."
"The #22 was faster than I was for sure," Larson responded. "I was racing hard to keep the spot. We raced side-by-side into four, and then went into one and simply drove us in the wall. The #22 ruined our day, and also ruined our teammate's day as Dylan had a good run going.
"I know Ryan is a good kid, it's just frustrating," he added. "It's short track racing, I know it wasn't on purpose. I just got in the wall and it made me mad."
In the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, third place at Bristol means that Chase Elliott continues to lead Regan Smith now by the lightly increased margin of 13 points. Ty Dillon edges ahead of Elliott Sadler for third place, after Sadler suffered front end damage during the race in a collision with Timmy Hill on lap 185 and ended up hitting the wall twice more before being classified in 29th place.
In the car owner standings, Blaney's Penske #22 now has a 24 point lead over the Joe Gibbs Racing #54 driven by Busch.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.