Ryan Blaney won the regular-season finale at Daytona in overtime for his third victory in 2021.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA (AP) — The Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway lived up to the hype, with 45 lead changes, a 14-minute red-flag period, and a frantic last lap of overtime to determine the championship playoff picture.
After a major multicar collision occurred behind him in the final sections of the course on the final lap, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney handled it all and won his second NASCAR Cup Series win in as many weeks.
Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford led just seven of the 165 laps, but the 27-year-old North Carolinian overtook teammate Ford driver and Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher for two laps in overtime to earn his third victory of the season and eighth overall.
Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing won the 16th and last playoff spot with a fifth-place finish in a tight and exciting fight with teammate Austin Dillon.
Blaney responded, “How about that?” “That was a great time. That accident was so close to us that we barely missed it. I had to line up in the front row, and the 7 gave me a nice shove (Corey LaJoie). You never know how these things will turn out in the end. You never know which lane is getting a larger run down the back. Someone got tied up over there, hoping no one was hurt. “
LaJoie was one of the nine drivers involved in the last lap’s nine-car collision at Turn 3. NASCAR
He was one of four drivers in the top ten on the last restart, including Dillon, Ross Chastain, and Daniel Suarez, who all needed a win to make the playoffs. Instead, all four of them were unlucky enough to be engaged in the last incident, which resulted in the elimination of a large portion of the front-running group.
Kyle Larson, who has a series-best five victories this season, finished 20th to earn his first NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship. He and Denny Hamlin were both involved in the last-lap collision. Hamlin finished 13th after leading the points standings for all but three of the previous 25 race weekends.
Blaney’s victory at Daytona capped a remarkable summer run that has him in second position in the postseason standings, 28 points behind Larson, going into next week’s playoff opener at Darlington Raceway.
Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch are placed third and fourth, respectively, in the playoff reset, followed by Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Hamlin, and William Byron, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Joey Logano placed ninth, ahead of Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, 2021 Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Reddick, and Kevin Harvick,
who led a race-high 37 laps but finished 23rd on Saturday. NASCAR
Blaney smiled as he added, “Got nice momentum.” “It’s nice to get three in a row. We’ll have to see. “
Bubba Wallace finished second, his highest finish of the 2021 season, after leading for eight laps late in the race. Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece, and Reddick rounded out the top five, with Newman and Preece also setting season highs.
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Haley, who had won the Xfinity Series race earlier in the day, finished sixth. The top ten was completed by Chase Elliott, B.J. McLeod, and Josh Bilicki. McLeod finished in the top ten for the first time in 76 NASCAR Cup Series appearances.
The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) kicks off the 10-race elimination format NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs next Sunday. Harvick is the reigning champion of the event. This spring, Truex triumphed at Darlington.
NOTE: Ryan Blaney’s victory confirmed after the race-winning No. 12 Team Penske Ford passed NASCAR’s post-race inspection. However, Chris Buescher’s No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was disqualified because it did not meet NASCAR regulation requirements,
as stated in the following rule: I-4 Track Bar Mounting Assembly; 18.104.22.168.b REAR SUB-FRAME ASSEMBLY As a consequence, Buescher’s second-place finish changed to 40th, last in the 40-car field.
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Ryan Blaney survives overtime at Daytona, wins regular-season finale for third 2021 win