Ryan Blaney Started And Finished In The Same Position At Kansas

Ryan Blaney
Track:    Kansas Speedway

Race:     Kansas Lottery 300

Date:     October 21, 2017

 

No. 22  Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney

Start:    3rd

Finish:   3rd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 200/200

Laps Led: 3

Owner’s Points Position (leading by): 1st (+12)

 

Recap: Ryan Blaney started third and finished third in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway. Blaney showed speed in the Mustang all weekend and wasted no time working his way to the second position at the drop of the green flag. In the opening 45-lap stage, Blaney’s Ford built loose over the long green-flag run. The third-generation driver would remain in the runner-up position before the first caution flag of the race at lap 45, ending the first stage of the 200 lap event. Blaney reported the handling of his Mustang to be slightly loose on corner entry and crew chief Greg Erwin elected to pit for slight adjustments, four tire and fuel.  When the second, 45-lap stage resumed, it was more of the same for the No. 22 Discount Tire Mustang, consistently running fast lap times on the track and battling for the second position. Over the course of the second stage, Blaney’s Ford began to lose rear grip, so Erwin called for more adjustments to help regain the lost handling. At the end of the final stage the 23-year-old would restart ninth with 104 laps remaining in the 300 mile race. Blaney again worked his way back to the front, battling for the second position by lap 112. When the caution flag was displayed for the final time at lap 137, Erwin called the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford into the pits for the final time, adjusting the track bar along with four fresh tires and fuel. Blaney would restart fourth and he immediately charged forward, battling three wide for the race lead on lap 147. Blaney would lead three laps before losing steam and settling into the second position.  With three laps reaming, Blaney ran over debris, cutting down his right rear tire. He would forfeit the runner-up position, limping his Ford to the finish line in third. The third place finish propelled the No. 22 Ford team to the lead in the Owners point standings, leading the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing by 12 markers.

 

Quote: “The 18 and 20 were really strong today. I thought the Discount Tire Ford were getting better there at the end and then we had a right-rear come apart at the end of the race. That sucked. I thought that we had something at the end for the leaders. Just not our day. We just stalled out with 15 laps to go.”

OTIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Inspections Issues Sends Blaney To The Tail End At Kansas

Image result for wood brothers racing kansas speedway

Ryan Blaney, who enters the final race of the Monster Energy Cup playoff’s Round of 12 in seventh place, had been among the fastest drivers in practice and qualifying on Friday at Kansas.

Now he’ll need all that speed to work his way up from his 40th starting spot in Sunday’s 400 miler.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that in today’s competitive environment, teams tend to take chances when it comes to preparing their cars.

“The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car,” Wood said. “We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.

“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

Blaney and his Wood Brothers team, participating in the NASCAR playoffs for the first time, enter the final race of the Round of 12 two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ryan Blaney Thinks That Kansas Speedway Works In His Favor

If Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Omnicraft team had their pick of race tracks to run the elimination race of the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, they’d likely pick Kansas Speedway, the site of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.

Blaney made his Cup debut at Kansas in 2014, driving a Team Penske Ford. Since moving to the Wood Brothers No. 21 the next season, Kansas has statistically been his best track.

He has three finishes of seventh or better in four Kansas starts in the No. 21 Fusion with an average finish of 7.5. He won his first Cup pole there in May, and set a career record for points earned in a single race with 51.

In that Go Bowling 400, he led 83 laps, finished third in Stage One and won Stage Two before finishing fourth at the checkered flag.

Blaney, who will carry the colors of Omnicraft for the second time this season, enters this weekend’s 400-miler seventh in the points standings, two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch. The bottom four drivers in the playoff standings will be eliminated from championship contention after Sunday’s race.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s happy to have come this far in the playoffs and hoping to make it to the third round.

Wood said the team will be focusing on earning stage points, beginning with practice and qualifying on Friday. A top starting spot means there are fewer drivers to pass to be among the top 10 and thereby earn points in the first stage.

Stage points have been key to the success Blaney and the No. 21 team have enjoyed throughout the season.

Through Talladega, Blaney has earned 193 stage points. He’s won four stages, plus a win at Pocono Raceway, and scored 17 top-five stage finishes and 36 top-10s.

“We saw how important stage points are last week at Talladega, and it’ll be the same this week at Kansas,” Wood said. “The 18 points Ryan earned in the first two stages at Talladega allowed us to move up four spots in the standings even after wrecking out of the race.”

Wood also said he believes his team’s battle for a spot in the Round of Eight will bring extra attention to Omnicraft, which is Ford Motor Company’s new brand of quality replacement parts for non-Ford and non-Lincoln vehicles.

The Omnicraft brand, which made its debut in January, is Ford’s first new parts brand in 50 years and will give its dealers and the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers access to quality parts for any vehicle brought in for service.

“One of the perks of being in the playoffs is that it brings more attention to our car and its sponsor, and this weekend’s media coverage will raise awareness for the Omnicraft brand,” Wood said, adding that he’s cautiously optimistic about the upcoming weekend. “Hopefully we can build on our run at Kansas in May and make it to the Round of Eight.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

A Late Race Accident Ended Blaney’s Day At Talladega

Ryan Blaney
Stage points turned out to be the silver lining for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Quick Lane team in a Talladega race that didn’t end as they hoped it might.

The 18 points earned by Blaney in the early stages of Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway added a very positive element to an otherwise disappointing day to the race for Blaney and the Quick Lane team.

After strong finishes in the two 55-lap stages, Blaney positioned himself to challenge for the win as the laps wound down. He narrowly avoided trouble on several occasions before being swept up in one of the late multi-car crashes that left just 14 drivers running at the finish.

Blaney, who was eliminated in a Lap 177 crash, was credited with the 18th finishing position, but when his stage points were added in he actually moved up four spots in the playoff standings.

He entered the 500 in 11th place but left in seventh place, two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch.

The Round of 12 ends next weekend at Kansas Speedway, which has been one of the better tracks for the No. 21 team.

For much of Sunday’s race, Blaney and his fellow Ford drivers were among the fastest on the track.

The Ford teams worked together in Stage One to set up a strong finish. The drivers all headed to pit road for fuel under the green flag on Lap 13, and that led to Ford drivers sweeping the top four spots with Blaney earning eight points for a third-place finish.

He came back and dominated the second stage, leading the final 19 laps of that 55-lap segment to earn an addition 10 stage points plus one playoff point.

Blaney was poised to pad his points total even more before the crash that took him out of the race.

A disappointed Blaney said there was nothing he could have done to escape damage in the five-car crash that damaged his Fusion to badly to continue on.

“We were up by the wall and somebody probably got turned and I got in it,” he said. “I didn’t think there were enough cars to wreck that much anymore, but we happened to find it, and a good day kind of down the drain.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said Sunday’s race proves something he’s long believed about restrictor-plate racing on the giant Alabama track.

“Talladega can be your best friend, but it can turn into your worst enemy in a second,” he said.

“But I was really proud of the way Ryan and the Quick Lane team performed today.

“We came into the race wanting to earn stage points and then try to finish the race as high as we could.”

He said that will be the strategy again next week at Kansas Speedway.

“We ran well there earlier this year, so we’ll go into the race with the same goals – earning stage points and finishing as high as possible.”

Wood also said he was proud of Talladega’s track president Grant Lynch and his staff for hosting a grand event.

“The stands were full, and seeing so many people there made it feel like the old Talladega,” Wood said.

Among those who made the trip to Talladega for the Alabama 500 were Edsel Ford and Brett Wheatley from Ford Motor Company.

“I hope they enjoyed it,” Wood said. “One of our Ford teammates, Brad Keselowski from Team Penske, won the race, and Ryan and the Quick Lane team were at their best today.

“I know Ryan is disappointed that he wasn’t able to finish the race, but he did a great job and missed a lot of wrecks before the one that finally ended his day.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Pit Stops And Stage Points Will Be Key For Blaney At Talladega

Ryan Blaney
Stage racing, instituted by NASCAR officials at the beginning of the season to inject drama into the early portions of races, has had a major impact on how race teams plan strategy.

For drivers and teams in the Round of 12 in the playoffs, this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway could see stage racing take on even greater importance.

In years past, some teams often chose to ride around in the rear of the pack at Talladega, hoping to avoid being collected in one of the points-killing, multi-car crashes that seem to occur on a frequent basis at the giant Alabama track.

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, pointed out in an interview session at Martinsville Speedway that there will be no riding around early on for him and his fellow playoff contenders.

“It really hurts you when you don’t get any of those points, so I think a lot of teams are going go out there and be pretty aggressive at Talladega, trying to get some stage points,” Blaney said.

“I know we’re going have to be aggressive because you can take a big swing in the points if you can do well or if you do bad at them.”

For most of the 2017 season, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have been successful in running up stage points. He’s scored those bonus points in 22 races for a total of 175 points.

“You have to start off these races so good to try to run up there and collect those points,” Blaney said. “We’ve done that. We know how to do it.”

Blaney enters Sunday’s Alabama 500 11th in the championship standings but just five points behind eighth place, and the top eight will advance to the next playoff round after the Oct. 22 race at Kansas Speedway. He’s hopeful that the speeds shown by Ford in recent restrictor-plate races will continue this weekend.

Ford drivers have won all three restrictor-plate races this season and seven of the past 10 races at Talladega including the past four straight. Blaney has had restrictor-plate success as well, finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“The Fords have been really fast this year at the speedways,” he said. “They’ve won every single one of them this year, so that’s pretty encouraging to know.

“We’ve always had a great speedway program – Ford in general – so I think that’s a huge testament to not only the teams at getting the cars ready, but that’s a huge statement for Roush Yates. They’ve done a great job of getting the motors to where we need to be on the speedways, so that’s always nice to know.”

What’s not nice to know is the possibility of being swept up in one of the multi-car crashes that seem to happen regularly in the giant packs of cars that are an inevitable part of restrictor-plate racing.

“You just try the best you can to try to position yourself to where you don’t have to try to avoid anything, but you never know what can happen,” he said. “I don’t really think about even the second-place run at Daytona. I don’t really even think about that one because it’s a whole different game.

“You can never really go in there with a game plan. You do the best you can, but everything changes when the green flag drops.”

Qualifying for the Alabama 500 is set for Saturday at 3:15 p.m. Central Time (4:15Eastern) and the race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1 p.m. (2 p.m.Eastern) with TV coverage on NBC.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Blaney Garners An 8th Place Finish At Charlotte

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team took a car that wasn’t handling very well early on in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and tuned it to the point that it finished eighth. The team now heads to Talladega Superspeedway just five points back of a spot among the top eight that will advance to the third round of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs.

Blaney started the 500 from 15th place but was running outside the top 20 when the planned competition caution flag flew at Lap 35.

From that point on, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team worked on the No. 21 Fusion on each pit stop, and by the end of Stage Two, Blaney was running in the ninth position, which earned him two valuable stage points.

From then on until the checkered flag, Blaney was able to maintain a spot in the top 10 as he finished eighth for his 11th top-10 finish of the season.

Among the issues the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team had to overcome was a broken tether on the left-rear wheel. That meant the jack needed an extra pump or two to get the left side lifted on pit stops. Even so, the over-the-wall crew repeatedly returned Blaney to the track with a minimum of lost time.

“It’s solid,” Blaney said of his team’s performance on Sunday. “I thought we did a good job of getting better throughout the race.

“We were a lot better at the end of the race than what we were at the beginning. That says a lot about the team and hopefully we can keep it up and run decent the next two weeks.

“I’m proud of the effort to get better and the hard work, so that’s what we needed.”

Blaney’s now 11th in the championship standings, well within reach of the elite eight as the circuit heads to Talladega, where unexpected turns of events are the norm, as team co-owner Eddie Wood said.

“Our goal coming into Charlotte was to not do anything to take ourselves out of the playoff picture,” Wood said. “Ryan drove a smart race, stayed out of trouble and didn’t panic when the car wasn’t handling well at the start of the race.

“We raced around the people we’re competing against for the cut-off position, which is where we should be running, and the pit crew did a great job despite some challenges with the broken tether.

“Now we’ll all go to Talladega, which is going to tell the story for all of us in this round of the playoffs.”

Blaney said he knows how he’d like that Talladega story to read.

“We’re going to try to run up front and win,” he said.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Team Penske Reviews The Charlotte NXS Race

Joey Logano

Track:   Charlotte Motor Speedway

Race:    NC Drive for the Cure 300

Date:     October 7, 2017

 

No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang – Sam Hornish Jr.

Start:    31st

Finish:   2nd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 200/200

Laps Led: 0

Owner’s Points Position (behind leader): N/A

 

Recap: Sam Hornish Jr. started 31st and finished second in the No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang in Saturday night’s NC Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Despite the deep starting position, the Defiance, OH native, wasted no time working his way forward at the drop of the green flag. In the opening 10 laps, Hornish wheeled the colorful PPG Mustang inside the top-20, reaching the 16th position before the first caution flag of the race at lap 28. Hornish reported the handling of his Mustang to be slightly loose on corner entry and tight in the center. Crew chief Brian Wilson elected to leave the PPG Ford on the track with only a handful of teams taking the opportunity to pit. Hornish continued his forward march during the remaining laps in the first stage, reaching the 10th position when a caution flag at lap 42 ended the stage. Wilson elected to adjust with wedge, also having the crew add tape to the nose to give Hornish more forward turn. When the second stage resumed, it was more of the same for the No. 12 PPG Mustang, consistently running the fastest lap times on the track while marching inside the top-five and finishing the second stage in the third position. The handling had swung to the free side on corner exit during the second stage, so Wilson elected to adjust with track bar on the second stop of the night. The No. 12 Team Penske crew gained a one position on pit road, allowing Hornish to restart on the front row for the beginning of the final stage. The No. 12 Mustang struggled on restarts, but after 10 laps proved to be the fastest car on the track. On the third pit stop of the night, Wilson elected to leave the car alone, servicing it with just four tires and fuel. Unfortunately, the track would take another swing, adding grip as the conditions continued to cool off, and Hornish would have to battle a car that was too tight. When the caution flag was displayed for the final time at lap 160, Wilson called the No. 12 PPG Ford into the pits for the final time, adjusting with track bar, and additional tape on the nose preparing for the sprint to the finish. Several of the lead lap cars had pitted on the lap 141 caution, which shuffled the No. 12 team to the ninth position on the ensuing restart. Again, wasting little time, Hornish charged forward, battling teammate Ryan Blaney for the second position where he would finish the night.

 

Quote: “I think if it had been anybody else other than my teammate or Bowman winning I’d probably been pretty disappointed with tonight for as fast as we were, but the fact that we stuck with it. The car was great.  We needed long runs and didn’t have any early on in the race.  Finally got the car adjusted right where we thought we needed to be and kind of overstepped it.  On that last restart I kind of got stuck on the bottom and it also freed the car up a little bit right there too, knowing that we’re gonna be back in traffic.  It took us a little bit longer.  The top lane rolled and the 2 and the 42 were able to make a lot of ground on us there early, and it was everything that Alex needed to be able to win and it was a bit of fighting for me to be able to get back second.  By the time I had a slip-up underneath the 22 car.  I’m really glad we didn’t end up getting together.  I figured I kind of slid around the corner long enough that I figured I wasn’t gonna correct until he was past me again, and made the right-rear tire mad and it took us about five or six laps to get that calmed back down, go back after him and just not enough time there at the end.”

 

No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney 

Start:    2nd

Finish:    3rd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 200/200

Laps Led: 38

Owner’s Points Position (behind leader): 2nd (-8)

 

Recap: After an extensive rain delay at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS), Ryan Blaney finished the NC Drive for the Cure 300 in the second position, capturing his 34th career top-five finish. Blaney and the No. 22 Discount Tire team started the 200-lap event second after Saturday’s qualifying session was rained out and the field was set by the rule book. During the first 45-lap stage, Blaney raced within the top three, battling a loose Ford Mustang. The first stage saw two cautions where Blaney communicated to his team the Ford had no turn or drive on take-off. Blaney would remain in the third position until the end of the stage. Crew chief, Greg Erwin called the third-generation-driver down pit road, under caution on lap 47 for minor adjustments to help tighten up the Ford and help on take-off. The 23-year-old would restart from the third position once the second stage started on lap 51. Shorty after, Blaney captured the second position making it three-wide. Over the course of the long run, Blaney’s Ford became increasingly free, dropping to the fourth position by the end of the second stage on lap 90. Blaney raced his way up to the second position on lap 97 before the race fell under caution once again on lap 104. During the restart, Blaney would battle hard for position, almost capturing the race lead before settling into the second position.  Erwin called Blaney down pit road on lap 123 for a scheduled pit stop under caution. The No. 22 team won the race off pit road and Blaney would restart as the race leader with 74 laps remaining. The race would see yet another caution on lap 147, gambling the caution would come out again, Erwin elected to stay out while other teams came to pit road. Blaney would go on to lead 38 laps before the caution flew again on lap 160. Blaney came to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and minor adjustments on lap 162. Blaney would restart eighth and drive up to the second position before falling back to third at the end of the race. Blaney’s third place finish was his fourth top-10 finish in six races at CMS.

 

Quote:  “I thought we had a pretty decent car.  We started off great.  I thought we lacked a little bit of speed and I was real loose.  We did a pretty good job of getting it tighter to where it might be a little bit better.  We got the lead on pit road, which is good.  They did a great job on pit road all night with really fast stops and that helped out a bunch.  On that last restart we got running there and some cars stayed out.  They gambled a little bit and we got stuck behind the 5 a little bit.  The 42 did a good job.  He got a big run on the top and drove away from us.  He was better than us that last run anyway.  We lost a little bit of speed there.  It stinks we couldn’t have won that race, but I thought we learned a little bit and hopefully we can apply that tomorrow.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Best Medicine For Talladega Is A Charlotte Win!

Chris Buescher & Ryan Blaney
The Oct. 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway is all but certain to have a profound effect on the Playoff!

Though Talladega isn’t an elimination race per se, the random nature of events at a restrictor-plate track can elevate the championship prospects of drivers who avoid the inevitable “big one” and dash the hopes of those who don’t.

But there’s a strategy that can make the outcome at Talladega moot. Just win Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and lock up a spot in the next round before heading to the heart of Alabama. That, says playoff driver Ryan Blaney, is the only way to approach Talladega with any sense of comfort.

“If we’re in Victory Lane (at Charlotte), to be honest with you, I feel that’s the only way that you can really feel good about heading into a speedway like (Talladega),” Blaney said. “Even if you win a couple stages, yeah, that’s great and you have a bunch of gap.

“But you can go out and get caught in one before the first stage and lose a bunch. I don’t think you can ever feel comfortable going into a speedway race unless you’re locked in. Hopefully we can win the race. That’s our main goal. Maybe a solid day helps out. I don’t think you really be comfortable unless you win the race going into next week.”

TIL NEXT ITME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

It Surely Wasn’t Pretty For Blaney At Dover

Ryan Blaney
It wasn’t pretty for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway, but it was mission accomplished as they will advance to the Monster Energy Cup Playoff Round of 12 despite a 23rd-place finish.

Blaney qualified 11th but struggled from the start with an ill-handling car.

He had dropped to 20th place by Lap 63, but the real setback came just after he made his first green-flag pit stop.

Before the cycle of pit stops could be completed, Jeffrey Earnhardt struck the barrels at the end of pit road, bringing out the caution flag and trapping Blaney two laps behind the leaders who hadn’t stopped at that point.

Blaney regained one lap but was never able to get back the second, even as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team worked on his car during pit stops and improved its handling.

Although Blaney remained in position to advance to the second round of the playoffs throughout the race, there were some anxious moments in the final laps as the rear gear temperature rose to a problematic level.

But the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion showed its durability as Blaney nursed the car to the checkered flag.

That put him among the 12 drivers who will advance to the second playoff round, which begins next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It is definitely not the day we wanted, and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good,” Blaney said. “At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so, but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end.”

But, in the bigger, playoff picture, all was good in the end.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood commended his young driver for showing great poise in a difficult situation.

“We didn’t have the best car, but Ryan took what he had and made it to the second round of the playoffs,” Wood said. “He didn’t put himself in any bad spots, and he realized that it wasn’t about gaining positions, it was about making it to the end of the race.”

Blaney said that with the first playoff round behind him, he’s looking forward not only to the upcoming race at Charlotte but also to Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the other two tracks in the Round of 12.

“I think the tracks just play into our favor,” he said. “We are really fast at 1.5-mile race tracks and had a good run at Kansas earlier, and [on] speedways we run great.

“Charlotte, we had a broken axle earlier this year but we were pretty decent in that race before that happened. The 1.5-mile tracks seem to be our strong suit, and hopefully we can keep that up and keep making that our strong suit.”

Blaney enters the Round of 12 in ninth place in the standings with 3,008 points.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ryan Blaney Dominated The Last 2/3 Of The NXS Race At Dover

Ryan Blaney
Once Ryan Blaney got the lead in Saturday’s Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway, it was “game over” in the second NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff race of the season.

After Playoff driver William Byron led every lap of the 60-circuit first stage and banked a playoff point, Blaney took the lead off pit road under caution on Lap 64. Blaney kept his No. 22 Team Penske Ford out front the rest of the way, except for one lap led by Daniel Suarez on pit road under caution after the conclusion of Stage 2.

Playoff driver Justin Allgaier charged from fourth to second on the Lap 128 restart that began the final stage, which ran under a green flag to the finish. Though Allgaier was able to hold off Byron, his JR Motorsports teammate, and hold the series lead, he had nothing for Blaney, who finished 4.852 seconds ahead of Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

“It’s really hard to get a car like that, and, to be honest, we didn’t have it in the first run,” said Blaney, who will try to advance to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400. “We were a little bit off on the first run. We made some great changes after the first stage to get it better to where it needs to be.

“We actually got it better for the last run… As a driver, that’s all you can ask for, great changes throughout. It’s awesome to get to Victory Lane with (sponsor) Fitzgerald. This is really cool. We were close the first race this year and just didn’t quite get it. Definitely learned a lot for tomorrow.”

The victory was Blaney’s sixth in the series, his second this season and his first at the Monster Mile.

Though he couldn’t catch Blaney over the final run, Allgaier also had reason to celebrate as the highest finishing series regular. Heading to Charlotte 54 points above the current cut line for the second round of the XFINITY Playoff, Allgaier is a virtual lock to advance.

So is Byron, who chased Allgaier for the final 73 green-flag laps but couldn’t find a way past his teammate. Byron is 51 points above the cutoff with the Playoff field scheduled to be pared from 12 to eight drivers next Saturday at Charlotte.

“I was trying to put it in Victory Lane,” Allgaier said. “We just needed a little more. I ran high some, low some. There at the end we made a great adjustment, and I was able to run the bottom, where I wanted to run all day.

“It paid off. Obviously, second place is not quite Victory Lane, but in the points battle we’re playing, it’s pretty darn close.”

In the battle to survive the Playoff cutoff, Brendan Gaughan gained ground with a 10th-place finish. Facing the elimination race at Charlotte, Gaughan is ninth in points, two behind eighth-place Ryan Reed, who finished a lap down in 16th-place at Dover.

Playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole and Matt Tifft came home fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, to improve their chances to make the Round of 8. Daniel Suarez ran seventh, joining Blaney as the only non-XFINITY regulars to finish in the top 12.

Rookie Cole Custer and regular-season champion Elliott Sadler, both well above the current cut line, ran eighth and ninth respectively.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!