Ryan Blaney comes up empty after dominating performance

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Peak Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 60th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With 11 laps left in Sunday’s Daytona 500, Ryan Blaney appeared a likely winner. He was leading a single-file line of cars around the top lane of Daytona International Speedway when the race changed dramatically.

William Byron spun off Turn 4 with a flat tire on Lap 190, causing a caution that bunched the field for a double-file restart on Lap 194. Blaney lost the lead, regained it, lost it again and ultimately sustained damaged during a 13-car melee on Lap 199, when his No. 12 Team Penske Ford turned Kurt Busch’s No. 41.

“It was just hard racing,” said Blaney, who led 118 of 207 laps but had to settle for seventh at the finish. “You say it all day. I was trying to be aggressive blocking the lead and kind of fell back and got a good run back up towards it. Man, the 11 (Denny Hamlin) blocked the 41 (Busch), and the 41 kind of went high last minute, and I was on his left rear and I turned him.

“I feel bad about that. He kind of changed lanes last-minute, and I couldn’t react quick enough. It stinks. We led a lot of laps. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it was a good showing. Hopefully we go into Atlanta and have a decent run.”