Ryan Blaney has spent the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season as the forgotten member in Team Penske’s powerhouse stable of drivers.
But in Monday’s weather-postponed 1000Bulbs.com 500, he stepped from the shadows by winning a wild one at Talladega Superspeedway.
The win was the first of the season for Blaney and his third in the Cup Series. Best of all for the 25-year-old driver is that the victory gives him a berth in the Playoffs Round of 8, which begins in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway.
And it was an exciting win as Blaney crossed the finish line banging doors Ryan Newman. The margin of victory was .007 seconds.
Blaney joined teammates Joey Logano (two wins) and Brad Keselowski (three wins) as a race victor.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Newman finished second while playoff contender Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing was third.
Rounding out the top five were Aric Almirola of Stewart Haas Racing and Michael McDowell of Front Row Motorsports.
Talladega proved to be a bummer for many of the other 11 drivers still contenting for the championship.
A big wreck with just over two laps remaining in Stage 2 spelled bad news for several of those contenders. Logano hit fellow playoff driver Alex Bowman from behind, sending Bowman across the track and up into the wall.
Bowman’s car was demolished. Other championship contenders involved were Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson. All but Bowman and Larson continued, but with varying degrees of damage. Larson suffered the least long-term damage as he won a week ago to nail down a berth in the Round of 8.
Bowman offered a mea culpa. “I threw a block,” he said. “I shouldn’t have blocked. They (Logano) had a bigger run than I realized. I should have let him go.”
A second big wreck — this one with 26 laps to go in the scheduled 188-lapper — took a toll on two more playoffs contenders. It occurred when William Byron was bumped sideways and then into the wall. Logano, a three-time winner at Talladega and in position to win again, also was caught up and suffered damage to his Team Penske Ford.
The biggest one occurred with seven laps to go and it too took out championship contenders. Involved were playoffs drivers Kyle Busch, who was racing for the lead, and Brad Keselowski.
The race began Sunday at 2 p.m. as an all Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet show after that team’s Elliott, Bowman, Byron and Jimmie Johnson started from positions 1 through 4, respectively.
Byron was in the lead when racing was stopped with 57 of a scheduled 188 laps complete. The race was in the first stage intermission when rain began to fall 2.66-mile track. The red flag quickly waved. The cars were covered on pit road as officials tried to wait out the weather. With Talladega being a track without lights, NASCAR finally decided to move the action to Monday.
The race went green again at 2:15 p.m. ET.
Next up is the playoffs cutdown race at Kansas Speedway.
--Field Level Media