Ryan Blaney again saw a potential Daytona 500 victory slip through his fingers late Sunday afternoon.
The Team Penske driver dominated the 60th annual event, leading five times for a race-high 118 laps and picking up the stage two victory. And he was leading a single-file train around the high banks of Daytona International Speedway with just 11 laps to go.
A single-car spin by William Byron off Turn 4, however, changed the race. Losing the lead when he was shuffled to the middle, Blaney charged back and eventually retook the top spot – only to lose it again.
Blaney was then done in when he and Kurt Busch started a 13-car crash in Turn 1 on Lap 199, which sent the race to overtime.
“Before I lost the lead you’re just blocking as hard as you can,” he said postrace. “The 11 [Denny Hamlin] got a huge run, I got super loose and I thought we made a pretty decent charge back up through [the field]. And I kinda got to the left of the 41 [Busch] a little bit, and I then had someone push me from behind.
“I hate I turned him, you never want to do that. So that stunk.”
“This has become the War of Attrition 500.”- Mike Joy https://t.co/dKTDB0sCjf
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 18, 2018
Despite the wreck and damage, Blaney salvaged a seventh-place finish. His Speedweeks also included a fourth-place finish in the non-points Clash race and a victory in last Thursday’s Can-Am Duel qualifier.
“I thought we had a really great Menards/Peak Ford Fusion,” said Blaney. “It’s a shame you don’t close it out, but you try to just learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time. You never know what could happen, but you just learn the best you can. This one definitely stings but hopefully we can get another shot at it one day.”
Last season, Blaney finished second in the Daytona 500 after running out of time to catch winner Kurt Busch on the last lap.
Blaney ended the night with an online apology.
First off I can’t thank the whole 12 team and Menards enough for what they do. That was an incredibly fun speedweek. Probably the hardest I’ve ever driven. Shame we came up short. Want to end with an apology to the 41 group. Just racing hard in a bad spot and I’m to blame.
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) February 19, 2018