Ryan Blaney went into last week’s race at Michigan International Speedway as a driver who had never won multiple races in a season of his NASCAR Cup Series career. Fast forward a week at Daytona, and Blaney has now won two straight as he won a “survival of the fittest” wreck fest in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
“Gosh we just barely missed that wreck. We lined up on the front row and got a good push by [LaJoie]. You never know how the end of these things are going to play out. Down the back, you just don’t know what lane is getting a run. And I guess someone got tangled up over there. Hopefully everybody is okay,” Blaney said.
Blaney led just seven laps on the night, but he was up front when it mattered most, and more importantly, he steered clear of the mayhem in the closing laps of the race to score the win, his seventh of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
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Chris Buescher seemingly finished runner-up after snaking through a last-lap crash and looked to be just shy of advancing to the Playoffs by way of a win.
“I’m sure I’ll play it back and find something else different again,” Buescher stated. “Top line wasn’t as organized on that start and the bottom they were digging. We were fortunate to get back to second, but that hurts.”
Unfortunately, for Buescher, his car failed post-race inspection with an illegal track bar mounting assembly. As a result, he was disqualified and credited with a 40th-place finish.
Bubba Wallace also got through the carnage and scored his second top-five finish of the year with a solid second-place effort, after the scoring was adjusted for Buescher’s DQ. Wallace said his car didn’t have the speed he needed on the final restart to get the win.
“That last restart our car felt slow,” Wallace said. “Just sluggish. The seas parted when that wreck happened. I just stayed in it. Came out third. But that’s not what we needed. Bummer, but solid day. We went up there and led some laps.”
While third place is good, and his friend Blaney won the race, Wallace was peeved by his fellow Toyota teammates, who he felt didn’t help him out when the chips were on the table.
“I’m a little frustrated. I’m the one who gets called out for not working with teammates and I’m the one who gets left hanging,” Wallace exclaimed in frustration. “There’s a reason Ford is in victory lane, because they always work together.”
Ryan Newman came home in third and Ryan Preece was fourth and Tyler Reddick finished an impressive fifth on Saturday night.
By somehow scoring a sixth-place finish after looking like his race was over due to a crash on lap 145, Reddick has secured his place in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. In doing so, his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon was eliminated after being involved in the final lap crash.
“I’m not going to lie to you, my emotions were shot as soon as I took the green on the last green-white-checkered,” Reddick admitted. “I can’t believe we finished [sixth]. Getting through that last crash, coming to the line, it was a lot. I’m not going to lie.”
Justin Haley, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, BJ McLeod and Josh Bilicki rounded out the top-10 finishers in the crazy Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Saturday’s race was electric, but drivers had skillfully avoided mayhem through the opening two Stages of the race and the majority of the final Stage of the race as well. But then, chaos ensued with 15 laps to go when Martin Truex Jr. was sent into William Byron triggering a big crash:
And then coming to three laps to go, Chase Elliott made a block on Matt DiBenedetto for the lead. That block did not work out and the two drivers went hard into the wall. From there, chaos ensued. It was The Big One:
The race featured 45 lead changes between 15 drivers. Joey Logano led the most laps on the night with 37, but Logano finished a disappointing 24th after being swept up in a late crash.
Here are the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings as we head into the first round of the Playoffs at Darlington, next week:
- Kyle Larson, 2,052 points
- Ryan Blaney, 2,024
- Martin Truex Jr., 2,024
- Kyle Busch, 2,022
- Chase Elliott, 2,021
- Alex Bowman, 2,015
- Denny Hamlin, 2,015
- William Byron, 2,014
- Joey Logano, 2,013
- Brad Keselowski, 2,008
- Kurt Busch, 2,008
- Christopher Bell, 2,005
- Michael McDowell, 2,005
- Aric Almirola, 2,005
- Tyler Reddick, 2,003
- Kevin Harvick, 2,002
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.