Ryan Blaney simply wouldn’t take no for an answer.
After catching Kyle Busch with 10 laps to go Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Blaney was on the receiving end of a big block going into Turn 1. He was then pushed all the way to the inside going into Turn 2. But coming off Turn 3, Blaney finally got inside Busch, who had dominated the Axalta presents the Pocono 400, and took the lead.
There was no time to catch his breath as Blaney soon had Kevin Harvick pressuring from behind. But Blaney never panicked and ran nine perfect laps to score his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in his 68th start. It is the 99th win for Wood Brothers Racing and the organization’s first since Trevor Bayne went to victory lane in the 2011 Daytona 500.
With the win, Blaney is locked into the playoffs.
“It’s hard to process,” Blaney said in Victory Lane. “First we had to pass Kyle [Busch] and that was tough. He was on older tires and he was struggling off of [Turn] 1 and we were able to get under him there. Then we had to hold Kevin [Harvick] off, he was fast all day. I just didn’t want to make a mistake, that would have been the worst thing to do.
“I got to thank him for racing me really clean, that was really cool. We got Motorcraft and Ford and QuickLane back in Victory Lane. It’s Wood Brothers’ 99th win, so that’s really special, and that was just a lot of fun.”
Busch faded to ninth after leading 100 of the race’s 160 laps. After starting on the pole, Busch was sitting in prime position to score his first Pocono win when the caution flew with 19 laps to go. Busch and Brad Keselowski stayed out with Erik Jones (on two tires) and Blaney (on four tires) lined up on the second row.
For Harvick, it was his best finish of the season and his ninth top 10. It happened despite the worries of a possible engine issue following shifting issues early in the race.
“Got behind a couple times and had a fast enough car to make it back up,” Harvick said. “Then I missed a shift from third to second; I just got to thank the Roush Yates engine shop for building a pretty sturdy engine there because it should have blown up and it never blew up.
“I think there at the end, we just couldn’t get in the corner like we needed to all day. I couldn’t stop like I needed to. [Blaney] could charge the corner, so I needed for him to make a mistake and try to get underneath him on the exit of the corner. But never made a mistake and did a great job and wound up winning the race.”
Jones was the highest-finishing rookie in third, with Kurt Busch and Keselowski rounding out the top 10. Points leader Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, but his margin is down to one point over Kyle Larson, who finished seventh.
The race featured four cautions and 13 lead changes among nine drivers. Several cars appeared to suffer brake failure, including near-simultaneous failures for Jimmie Johson and Jamie McMurray, who both walked away from vicious wrecks within moments of each other in Turn 1 on Lap 97.