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Ryan Blaney holds off hard-charging NASCAR Cup field to squeak out win at Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Mich. — Ryan Blaney captured his second win this season blocking and weaving Sunday in the closing laps of the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Blaney overtook William Byron after taking the inside lane on a late restart as Byron tried to block Denny Hamlin, who started third, by going wide in Turn 1. Blaney took the lead with seven laps remaining and won by 0.077 seconds in the race's closest finish since 1993 when electronic scoring began.

Blany got a big push from Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who restarted fourth, allowing Blaney to surge ahead of Byron for his sixth career NASCAR Cup Series win.

Byron inched closer as his Hendricks Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson raced behind him, but the pair were never able to get enough momentum to squeak past Blaney in his No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

"Kyle (Busch) gave us a really good push to get us clear into turn one and then I was playing defense," Blaney said. "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."

Larson finished third, Kurt Busch fourth, and Hamlin fifth. Kyle Busch dropped back to seventh behind Matt DiBenedetto, who finished sixth.

The final restart was necessary after a four-wide racing incident with 14 laps remaining in Stage 3. Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Joey Logano all spun out, and Chase Elliott, who won the first stage, narrowly avoided being collected.

Blaney gave Team Penske a weekend sweep of NASCAR and IndyCar races and ended Kevin Harvick’s reign as the Michigan champ. Harvick had won thee last three Michigan races and four of five at the track. The consolation prize for Harvick after finishing 14th on Sunday, was wrapping up the 15th spot in the 16-car Cup Series playoff that begins in two weeks.

Ryan Blaney celebrates after winning the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
Ryan Blaney celebrates after winning the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Joey Gase smacked into the outer wall on turn two on lap 32 for the first caution flag of the race.

Then as Stage 2 concluded, Austin Dillon, contending for one of the final spots in the playoffs, got spun by Brad Keselowski and hit the outer wall destroying his No.3 Chevrolet.

"I was just trying to get as many stage points as I could get right there," Dillon said after exiting the infield care center. "It was a heck of a wreck but I feel fine."

Dillon had finished sixth in the second stage before the crash that ended his day, adding him to the list of drivers who face a must-win situation at next week's regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway. Dillon's Richard Childress Racing teammate Tyler Reddick, who finished 29th, currently occupies the final spot in the playoffs 25 points ahead of Dillon.

"(My crew) built a rocket ship. They really wanted this one, and I did too," Dillon said. "I think we would have had a shot to do something there at the end with our race car. It’s the best race car we’ve brought to the track at RCR this year, I feel like. It’s just a bummer, but we’ve got Daytona left.

"I just hate it. I don’t know why it happened, really. I thought I had a little room to come up and he just held me down there a little bit too long, I guess.”

Kyle Busch finished ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell to win the second stage, with Larson third.

NEW DEAL

Erik Jones told reporters Sunday he signed a contract extension this weekend to stay with Richard Petty Motorsports next season.

Jones didn’t divulge terms of the deal, which keeps him in the No. 43 Chevrolet. The announcement comes during a busy week in which he threw the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game, stared a new charitable foundation and made an appearance for Chevy in Detroit.

“It’s cool to have it done,” he said on a video call. “Happy to have it done at this point of the season not only so I can focus on the rest of this season but also so I can focus on next year.”

THE CROSSOVER

Bubba Wallace drives the No. 23 Toyota for basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan but it hasn’t kept him from meeting other NBA players. On Sunday, Wallace and Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey exchanged jerseys.

Bey was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up watching Cup races though he never attended one.

Former Pistons star Ben Wallace, a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee, showed up for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race. But it might not have been easiest sell to Jordan.

“I think it’s great for us to get more athletes that are interested in our sport – the NBA, the NFL, whatever it is to get them talking about it to bring our sport up where we need to be in urban areas, more diversity, “ Wallace said. “I know I can get some free tickets to Pistons game now although I did tell him it’s a little weird because of the long rival history between M.J. and Chicago with the Pistons.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

FireKeepers Casino 400 Results

Sunday at thee 2-mile Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. (starting position in parentheses):

1. (3) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200 laps, 40 points.

2. (18) William Byron, Chevrolet, 200, 43.

3. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200, 51.

4. (6) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200, 36.

5. (9) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200, 45.

6. (4) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 200, 36.

7. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, 42.

8. (2) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200, 46.

9. (20) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 33.

10. (5) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200, 27.

11. (21) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200, 26.

12. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chevrolet, 200, 25.

13. (28) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200, 33.

14. (8) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200, 23.

15. (11) Chris Buescher, Ford, 200, 22.

16. (10) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200, 21.

17. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, 200, 20.

18. (13) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 200, 19.

19. (15) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200, 18.

20. (25) Michael McDowell, Ford, 200, 17.

21. (32) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 200, 16.

22. (30) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 200, 15.

23. (27) Cole Custer, Ford, 200, 14.

24. (16) Ryan Newman, Ford, 200, 13.

25. (17) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 200, 0.

26. (24) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 200, 0.

27. (37) Cody Ware, Chevrolet, 199, 0.

28. (36) BJ McLeod, Ford, 198, 0.

29. (14) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 198, 11.

30. (31) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 196, 7.

31. (29) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 195, 6.

32. (33) Garrett Smithley, Ford, 194, 0.

33. (19) Joey Logano, Ford, garage, 188, 9.

34. (35) Anthony Alfredo, Ford, 178, 3.

35. (22) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 152, 2.

36. (26) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 120, 14.

37. (34) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, accident, 29, 0.

––– Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 142.467 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 48 minutes, 27 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.077 seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes: 20 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K.Larson 0-2; 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; Ky.Busch 111-113; C.Bell 114-115; Ky.Busch 116-122; K.Larson 123-126; Ku.Busch 127; K.Larson 128-158; D.Hamlin 159-164; Ky.Busch 165-167; B.Keselowski 168-173; C.Bell 174; W.Byron 175-192; R.Blaney 193-200

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Larson, 6 times for 70 laps; C.Elliott, 2 times for 68 laps; W.Byron, 1 time for 18 laps; Ky.Busch, 3 times for 13 laps; D.Hamlin, 2 times for 10 laps; R.Blaney, 1 time for 8 laps; B.Keselowski, 1 time for 6 laps; C.Bell, 2 times for 3 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 2 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 1 lap; M.DiBenedetto, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: K.Larson, 5; M.Truex, 3; A.Bowman, 3; Ky.Busch, 2; C.Elliott, 2; R.Blaney, 2; W.Byron, 1; J.Logano, 1; B.Keselowski, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; C.Bell, 1; M.McDowell, 1; A.Almirola, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Larson, 1004; 2. D.Hamlin, 976; 3. Ky.Busch, 838; 4. W.Byron, 833; 5. C.Elliott, 820; 6. M.Truex, 789; 7. R.Blaney, 787; 8. J.Logano, 772; 9. K.Harvick, 756; 10. B.Keselowski, 729; 11. T.Reddick, 677; 12. A.Bowman, 674; 13. A.Dillon, 652; 14. Ku.Busch, 643; 15. C.Bell, 595; 16. M.DiBenedetto, 557.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR Michigan race, edging William Byron by a nose