Ryan Blaney spoils Hendrick Party at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford,takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 22, 2021 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney proved to be quite a buzz kill Sunday, at least for Hendrick Motorsports. Blaney took the lead on a chaotic restart with 8 laps to go and held off a hard charging William Byron to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

A shove from Kyle Busch proved to be the winning move for Blaney who used the momentum to take the lead from Byron and go on to win by .077 of a second, the closet margin of victory at Michigan since the advent of electronic timing and scoring.

“Yeah, we were going to be fourth and the front row was open,” Blaney said. You have to take the front row. It gave us a shot to win the race and Kyle (Busch) gave us a really good push to get us clear into turn one and then I was playing defense. We were wide open. Especially with Larson and William (Byron) laying back and trying to get runs. That made it tough.

“It was cool to persevere all day. We didn’t start off very good, but we worked on it all day and found ourselves in a spot to capitalize on it at the end and did that. A very cool day and nice to be in victory lane here in Michigan.”

Kyle Larson was third with Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top five.

“Yeah, the restart, worked out a little better than I thought it was going to for me,” Larson said. “The 11 tried to stick the 24 three-wide. They got loose. I got to the middle. I think came out third or something there. Was able to get to second.

“Just made a couple bad moves, I guess. I think honestly just a little too patient behind the 12. Could have made some later, you know, dives I guess to the inside. Who knows.

“I was never close enough to William to help him generate a run on the 12. Ended up third. A good points day. Wish we could have had more.”

For much of the 400 laps it was a Hendrick show with Larson leading a race high 70 laps, trading the lead with Chase Elliott, who led 68 and won Stage 1.

An ill-timed, and ill-advised pit stop for Elliott at the end of Stage 2 while the rest of the leaders stayed out left Elliott deep in the field and out of contention for the win. He would finish 8th.

It was left to Byron to take over the Hendrick mantle and he led 18 laps as Larson kept on his bumper telling his team over the radio to let Byron know he wouldn’t try and pass him.

Light rain fell and the field was put under caution on lap 181 ending the Hendrick duos attempt to separate themselves from the rest of the field.

On the ensuing restart on lap 186, wild racing led to a multi-car crash on lap 188 in Turn 4 started when Tyler Reddick got loose entering Turn 3 and backing up into Joey Logano. The melee also swept up Josh Berry, Martin Truex Jr., Anthony Alfredo and Christopher Bell.

The final restart came with 8 to go, with the race ending with Blaney’s second win of the season. It was also Ford’s seventh consecutive win at the track just outside Detroit and they kept the Michigan Heritage Trophy.

“It is huge,” Blaney said. “We come up here every year and know it is important to the Blue Oval and the Ford family and Mr. Penske as well. It is a really big race for all of our group including the Penske side.”

Matt DiBenedetto was sixth, Kyle Busch, who won Stage 2 was seventh, Elliott eighth with Brad Keselowski and Truex finishing the top 10.

The final regular season race for the NASCAR Cup series will be Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. Larson leads Hamlin in the regular season points by 28.

“Glad to go in there with 28 points,” Larson said. “If we could get a couple good stages there at Daytona, I would feel much better about it.”

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN – AUGUST 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford, celebrates in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 22, 2021 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results FireKeepers Casino 400

Michigan International Speedway

Brooklyn, Michigan

Sunday, August 22, 2021

  1. (3)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.
  2. (18)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 200.
  3. (1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
  4. (6)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200.
  5. (9)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.
  6. (4)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 200.
  7. (7)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.
  8. (2)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.
  9. (20)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.
  10. (5)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200.
  11. (21)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 200.
  12. (12)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 200.
  13. (28)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.
  14. (8)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.
  15. (11)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 200.
  16. (10)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.
  17. (23)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 200.
  18. (13)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 200.
  19. (15)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.
  20. (25)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 200.
  21. (32)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 200.
  22. (30)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 200.
  23. (27)  Cole Custer, Ford, 200.
  24. (16)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 200.
  25. (17)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  26. (24)  Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  27. (37)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 199.
  28. (36)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 198.
  29. (14)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 198.
  30. (31)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 196.
  31. (29)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 195.
  32. (33)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 194.
  33. (19)  Joey Logano, Ford, DVP, 188.
  34. (35)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 178.
  35. (22)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 152.
  36. (26)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 120.
  37. (34)  Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 29.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  142.476 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 27 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .077 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes:  20 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-2;M. DiBenedetto 3;K. Larson 4-22;D. Hamlin 23-26;C. Elliott 27-63;K. Larson 64-65;A. Dillon 66-67;K. Larson 68-79;C. Elliott 80-110;K. Busch 111-113;C. Bell 114-115;K. Busch 116-122;K. Larson 123-126;K. Busch 127;K. Larson 128-158;D. Hamlin 159-164;K. Busch 165-167;B. Keselowski 168-173;C. Bell 174;W. Byron 175-192;R. Blaney 193-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 6 times for 70 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 68 laps; William Byron 1 time for 18 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 13 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 10 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 8 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 6 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 3 laps; Austin Dillon 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,5,3,11,24,22,21,1,18,2

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,20,5,9,11,3,2,8,24,21

Greg Engle