Penske's Ryan Blaney picked up his second win of the season with victory in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series night race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday evening.
It's the 21-year-old's fourth win in the series in 41 starts, but he needed a little help from a friend to push him ahead of Richard Childress Racing's Ty Dillon in a final green-white-chequered overtime finish following a series of late-race cautions.
CLICK: Full NASCAR Xfinity Series race results from Kentucky Speedway.
Earlier in the afternoon, Joe Gibbs Racing's Daniel Suarez had claimed his third pole in 29 starts with a lap of 30.024s (179.856 mph) on the 1.5-mile oval. Suarez was joined on the front row by Richard Childress Racing's Brian Scott and it was Scott who immediately took the lead when the race went green before the first caution on lap 2 for a multi-car wreck involving Ryan Reed, Blake Koch, Ben Rhodes and Brennan Poole.
Scott maintained the lead through to the second caution of the day for Michael Self hitting the wall on the backstretch which allowed Dillon to win the race off pit road by taking two tyres, as did Roush Fenway's Darrell Wallace Jr. which meant Scott dropped back to third ahead of Suarez. From further back, Blaney was showing impressive speed and was able to scythe through the field and take the lead for the first time on lap 55.
Scott was back on charge by lap 100 when Poole got in the wars for a second time when he spun and made contact with Harrison Rhodes, which left such a mess from fluid spilling from Poole's car that an 18-minute red flag was required for the clean-up. After this half time interval, Dillon's RCR team mate Brandon Jones took the lead for a brief spell until a new yellow for Dylan Lupton hitting the wall in turn 4 on lap 125. With rain in the area, Jones gambled on staying out but his older tyres meant that he was swallowed up at the restart. That enabled Blaney to take over at the front until, a green flag pit stop on lap 153 handed the initiative back to Dillon who had his hands full fending off JR Motorsports' Regan Smith.
The final phase of the race saw a number of further cautions - on lap 168 for contact between Ben Rhodes and Jeremy Clements in turn 4, which saw Blaney stay off pit road to get back to the front; again on lap 181 for JGL Racing's Eric McClure spinning at the same spot leading to the driver suffering a hard hit and a suspected consussion; on lap 187 for Biagi-DenBeste Racing's Ryan Truex spinning out after Scott made contact with Cale Conley which in turn hit Truex and Ross Chastain; and finally for Jeremy Clements spinning on the backstretch.
The penultimate restart had cost Blaney his lead of the race, and the last caution set up a green-white-chequered overtime finish with Dillon in charge. Blaney needed a big push from JR Motorsports' Smith in the #7 to launch him back out on front, but once that was done he was able to break clear and clinch the chequered flag at the line by half a second.
"A great Discount Tire Ford Mustang," said Blaney. "We were great all night, it was just a matter getting up the front. Clean air was so important.
"Kentucky is such a great race track because you can see three- or four-wide racing in the first corner and as the leader you have to protect and I didn't know where the #7 was going, he kind of faked me out going to the top and that was able to open up the middle and it just lost all of our momentum.
"We were just even with the #3, and the #7 gave us a good push," added Blaney, describing his battle at the restart with Dillon and Smith. "Luckily we were able to get a good one and just get a little bit of position on the #3 to kind of use up the race track and get in front of him. I knew once we were clear we had a really good shot at it."
"This one really hurts," admitted Dillon after finishing second. "It hurts for my team, knowing that we were that close to winning this thing. But we've got to look at today as a positive, it was a good points day. We're trending in the right direction."
After boosting Blaney to victory, Smith himself came home in third place ahead of his team mate Chase Elliott, followed by Brandon Jones in turn leading home his RCR team mate Brendan Gaughan across the line. Roush Fenway Racing's Chris Buescher beat Erik Jones to seventh place and the top ten was rounded out by Darrell Wallace Jr. and JGR's Matt Tifft.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship points standings, Buescher now has a 19 point lead over Dillon, with reigning champion Chase Elliott a further six points back. The rest of the top six in the standings consists of Smith, Wallace Jr. and Elliott Sadler who finished this week's race just outside the top ten in 11th place. In the owners standings, this week's winning car - Roger Penske's #22 - has a 64 point lead over the Joe Gibbs-owned #54 which this week was in the hands of Erik Jones who finished the race in eighth place. The Roush Fenway Racing #60 remains in third place ahead of the Richard Childress Racing #3 and #33.
The next race of the championship is the Hisense 200 at Dover International Speedway on October 3.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and updated Xfinity Series championship standings.
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