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MENCS: Blaney Wins First Duel, Has Best Friend to Thank

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Daytona Beach, Florida — Over a fifth of the first Can-Am Duel at Daytona was run under the yellow flag, 56 of the 63 laps run were led by Joey Logano, but Ryan Blaney made a move in overtime to get his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series restrictor-plate win.

The Clash, run last Sunday, was also won by a Team Penske driver. The winner of that race, Brad Keselowski spent much of his duel riding behind teammates, Logano and Blaney. He lost his chance to win two consecutive races when a block on Jamie McMurray went awry with two laps to go.

McMurray made a move to Keselowski’s outside going down the back stretch. The two cars got hooked together, McMurray turned left to avoid the crashing No. 2 car. It ended as a two car incident.

Over the team radio Keselowski said, “one of those deals, sorry guys.”

Restarting the race in overtime, Ryan Blaney was given a shot in the rear by his friend Darrell Wallace Jr. For the first time, in an event dominated by line racing, the bottom line had momentum. “The two best friends there ever was,” as Logano coined after the race, were in the top-two spots.

Unable to garner a run on the No. 12, Wallace looked to maintain second but was edged at the line by Logano, giving Team Penske a one-two finish.

“I’m still learning the ropes and everything,” Wallace told the media after the race.

The 150 mile race began with Daytona 500 pole-sitter, Alex Bowman taking the green flag. In turns one and two of the first lap, Bowman slowed in the high lane. As the pole-sitter for the main event Sunday, Bowman just had to make sure his car came home in one piece, regardless of where he finished.

Within five laps the 20 car field had stretched into a line along the top of the track. Handling was a undoubtably at a premium thanks to the new rear ride height rules – or lack there of.

On lap 10, Jimmie Johnson blew a right-rear tire exiting the tri-oval. He felt his car run something over in turns three and four, going by the start/finish line Johnson pulled out of line. It was too late. When the tire went the No. 48 was yanked right, directly into Aric Almirola.

“Jimmie blew a right rear tire and just came across the race track,” said Almirola in the garage, after being released from the infield care center. He had no injuries.

“There was nothing I could do. I saw him pull out of line. I thought he was just checking up but he came back across the track. It is disappointing. Not the way I wanted to start Speedweeks with our Smithfield Ford Fusion but we will get another car out and get ready for the rest of the weekend.”

 

This was the first of two wrecks involving Hendrick Motorsports drivers. On lap 40 of the scheduled 60 lap event, William Byron spun around on the dog-leg of a straightaway between the tri-oval and turn 1. “The air moved me around,” said Byron, referencing an aggressive move made by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.† This was essentially a one car wreck.

Stenhouse wasn’t content with rim riding the top of the track. Continuously ducking to the bottom and side drafting off the top line of cars he eventually “packed the air,” as Jeff Gordon commented, on another car.

This time David Gilliland was the recipient, taking a hard hard head-on hit into the turn-one wall.

“He’s won two of these things and he’s out here trying to be a hero,” said Gilliland to his team while waiting for NASCAR’s safety crew to arrive at the scene of the accident.

Stenhouse once again avoided damage. After the race he said, “their cars looked like they were a little bit too loose.”

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