Blaney claims second XFINITY Series win of season at Dover
By Kyle McFadden
September 30, 2017
DOVER, Del.—Ryan Blaney obliterated the field to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway on Saturday evening. The Cup Series playoff contender topped runner-up Justin Allgaier by 4.852 seconds and led the final 136 laps.
Two pristine pit stops and a decisive mid-race adjustment proved to be the difference for the driver of Team Penske's No. 22 Fitzgerald Ford.
Blaney took the lead for good when he edged eventual third-place finisher William Byron off pit road during intermission stops between stages one and two. Byron, who started on the pole, led every circuit in the 60-lap stage one, as Blaney fought a tight car in the early going. A wedge adjustment freed up the race machine and allowed Blaney to cruise to his second XFINITY win of the season, and his sixth of his career. It’s Blaney’s first win at the “Monster Mile.”
“It’s really cool to be in victory lane with these guys. It’s my first win with the 22 group this year and I feel like we should’ve had four of five and it’s nice to finally see all their hard work pay off,” Blaney said. “It makes me, as a driver, feel good.
“We weren’t the best the first run. We were way too tight. The track was really shaded over and that’s not what we were prepared for. We thought it was going to be sunny. We were too tight to run down [William Byron] there. He seemed to be really good.”
Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft, Daniel Suarez, Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 10.
Allgaier takes sole possession of the points heading into Charlotte next Saturday, three points ahead of Byron in second. Sadler (13 points back), Custer (14 points back) and Hemric (17 points back) completes the top five as seven races remain in the XFINITY Series playoffs.
The race lasted one hour, 47 minutes, 10 seconds. There were five cautions for 28 laps, two being the conclusion of stages one and two.
STAGE ONE (LAPS 1-60)
Pole-sitter William Byron led all 60 laps in stage one. Cup Series regulars Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez followed suit, and Justin Allgaier, Erik Jones—another Cup regular—Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric and Brennan Poole rounded out the top 10.
The stage win for Byron didn’t come without a few tests, however. Miles the Monster flexed his muscle from the onset, as six of the 40 cars were swallowed up by the challenging track over three cautions in the opening 25 laps. None of the 12 playoff drivers were affected.
Byron executed all three restarts to perfection, breaking away from the pack before he hit the backstretch.
The JR Motorsports driver led by as many as 1.3 seconds.
Other playoff drivers finished Stage 1 in the following order: Brendan Gaughan 11th, Michael Annett 15th, Matt Tifft 16th, Ryan Reed 18th, Jeremy Clements 22nd, Blake Koch 24th.
STAGE TWO (LAPS 61-120)
A pristine pitstop in between stages by the No. 22 crew gave Blaney the lead off pit road ahead of Byron, who entered off second.
Both took four tires and fuel during the intermission stops, but Blaney made a wedge adjustment to loosen a tight race machine off exit while Byron only made a small air-pressure adjustment.
Blaney, who led every green flag lap in stage two, showcased his dominance in the long run, finishing 2.6 seconds ahead of second-place Byron and 8.3 seconds, a whole straightaway and then some, on Allgaier in third.
Suarez, Sadler, Reddick, Custer, Hemric, Poole and Tifft comprised the top 10.
There were no cautions in the second stage.
Other playoff drivers finished Stage 2 in the following order: Tifft 11th, Gaughan 14th, Annett 15th, Reed 17th (one-lap down), Koch 22nd (one-lap down), Clements 26th (one-lap down).
STAGE THREE (LAPS 121-200)
Another clean pitstop by the No. 22 camp preserved Ryan Blaney’s lead off pit road and put the Penske driver in position to finish the job. Blaney rocketed away from the pack as soon as the green flag for stage three dropped.
He slowly stretched his lead from there to claim his first victory at the “Monster Mile.”
Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick, both drivers who ran in the top 10 all day, suffered setbacks in the final leg for disappointing finishes. Jones, who got caught speeding on pit road, crossed the line 20th, while Reddick, who slapped the Turn 1 wall in the final laps due to a tight car, stumbled to a 26th-place finish.
POINTS OUTLOOK (DRIVER, POINTS, FROM LEADER, FROM CUTLINE)
Justin Allgaier 2107 (+3, +64)
William Byron 2104 (-3, +61)
Elliott Sadler 2094 (-13, +41)
Cole Custer 2093 (-14, +40)
Daniel Hemric 2090 (-17, +37)
Brennan Poole 2082 (-25, +29)
Matt Tifft 2067 (-40, +14)
Ryan Reed 2055 (-52, +2)
Brendan Gaughan 2053 (-54, -2)
Michael Annett 2048 (-59, -7)
Blake Koch 2043 (-64, -12)
Jeremy Clements 2035 (-72, -20)
ONE HAPPY KID
The Penske driver said he doesn’t keep the flag anyway, but when he saw the kid in the stands, he was obligated to do the gesture.
“To be honest with you, I never keep the checkered flag. Someone on my team gets it. I saw a bunch of kids lined up there and I just thought he should have it,” Blaney said.
“[The fan] seemed really pumped up to be at the race. I saw a lot of kids here today, which is cool personally for me to see.
“I kind of saw a little of myself. I was a little kid coming here and watching races. Anything we can do to try and keep them coming back and show them a pretty great experience at the track. Hopefully he enjoyed that experience.”
“Whatever we can do to make their day, I feel like it’s kind of a part of our jobs to be honest with you.”
Matt Tifft and Brennan Poole were found with one loose lug nut after the race. No penalties are announced at the time of publication.
Austin McFadden/The Racing Experts