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NASCAR Cup: Ryan Blaney scores first win at Pocono

Ryan Blaney celebrates in victory lane at Pocono Raceway after winning the Pocono 400 on June 11, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Ryan Blaney celebrates in victory lane at Pocono Raceway after winning the Pocono 400 on June 11, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Ryan Blaney became the third first-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner of 2017, joining Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon, Sunday with his win in the Axalta Presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Blaney win also was the first for Wood Brothers Racing since Trevor Bayne’s 2011 Daytona 500 win and the first for Jeremy Bullins as a Cup Series crew chief.
“I think it exceeds the dream a little bit,” Blaney said of his first win. “I grew up watching my dad race on this race track, and it’s so cool to get the Wood Brothers in victory lane, number one, and to do it here at a race track that his really close to Ohio, a home to me, is pretty awesome.”
En route to his first win, Blaney had to make two pit stops during an early-race green-flag cycle because of a right-side wheel issue, and he also contended with a radio issue that prevented his team from hearing him, even though he could hear his team. The radio problem prevented Blaney from the exact win celebration he wanted.
“I wanted to pick Eddie and Len (Wood) up,” Blaney said. “I wanted to find them and pick them up, but it figures, the one race we don’t have radio communication, we end up winning it. Maybe we should turn the radio off more often, but I wanted to try to find Eddie and Len. I wanted to give them a ride to victory lane. That would have been cool, but maybe, if we can get another one, we’ll be able to do that.”
Kyle Busch dominated the race, leading 100 of 160 laps, including a win in the first stage. Kyle Larson won stage two, while Busch was second in the second stage.
“It was a decent day,” Larson said. “I would have liked to finish better, obviously; I just didn’t get the best restarts. It seemed like, if I was on top, I was behind guys that were on no tires, and they’d be three-wide into one, and I’d be on the very top. And, when I’d restart on the bottom, I’d just get slowed down too much, and then, I couldn’t have a very good run off the corners. So my restarts weren’t great, but our car was a lot better than I thought it would be after practices. So, I’m happy about that. Chad (Johnson, crew chief) and everybody on this Target team did a good job making a lot of adjustments overnight, so I can’t thank them enough for that, because I really didn’t think we were a top-10 car all  yesterday.”
Busch opted to stay out during the final caution of the race for a Kasey Kahne wreck caused by a brake/tire problem with 19 laps remaining.
“I was going down the frontstretch about halfway, and the right-front popped. I had been fighting serious brake problems for while, so I’m guessing it had something to do with that,” Kahne said. “But it happened in the middle of the frontstretch, so I just kind of rode the wall, blew my brakes off, rode the wall to the brackstretch, which was, actually was a very easy ride for where it happened. Just disappointed that happened; that is three weeks in a row we have had issue. Been in the care center and, man, haven’t done anything wrong yet, just keep having issue. That is a struggle.”
Brad Keselowski also stayed out to restart on the front row, alongside Busch, but Keselowski had newer tires, having pitted under green just before the caution.
Keselowski dropped back to fifth on the restart, but Busch continued to lead until Blaney passed him for the top spot with nine laps remaining. Harvick also got by Busch to take second two laps later. Harvick closed on Blaney but was unable to get by him and had to settle for second.
“Kyle stayed out, and he was on a little bit older tires, and it looked like he was getting pretty tight, especially off of one, and that’s where new tires really seemed to come alive, because you could hold the line and get runs on him, downshift and get next to him. I had a big run on him off of three, and he did a good job blocking, and we were able to get under him, but then, I had to hold the 4 (Harvick) off. He was super-fast. I cant’ thank Kevin enough for racing me clean. That was really cool of him, but it was definitely hectic. Hopefully, the fans liked it. It was really cool.”
Erik Jones finished a career-best third after leading 20 laps, primarily in the first stage when he stayed out longer during a cycle of green-flag stops. Jones was second behind Busch in the laps-led category.
“Just happy, happy that we finally get a finish that we deserve,” Jones said of his career-best finish. “We ran top-five most of the day and has good strategy, and it worked out.”
Pit strategies varied throughout the race, resulting in long green-flag cycles and drivers staying out between stages.
Kurt Busch finished fourth and Keselowski rounded out the top-five. Martin Truex Jr. was sixth, Larson seventh, and Chase Elliott eighth. Kyle Busch drifted back to ninth by the checkered flag. Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-10.
Aside from the two cautions that separated the race stages, the yellow flag waved only two other times. Before the Kahne caution, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray both wrecked on lap 96 because of brake failures. Johnson hit a SAFER barrier hard and McMurray’s car caught fire. As a result of necessary, extensive track clean-up, the race was red-flagged for over 23 minutes.
“It (brake pedal) went right to the floor, and I ssaw a replay inside the medical center,” Johnson said. “The smoke, I think, is the brake fluid coming out of wherever failed and onto the rotors. I can only speculate that I got the brakes too hot, and when I went to the brakes, they just traveled straight to the floor. I didn’t even have a pedal to push on. At that point, I threw it in third gear, and I was just trying to slow it down. I was heading to the grass, and I was wondering why I didn’t turn right and get to the wall sooner, but I’m fine. Certainly, a big scare. I haven’t had a scare like that since 2000 at Watkins Glen.”
Clint Bowyer hit the wall early in the second stage, but the race remained green. he hit the wall again during the caution between the second and third stages, attempting to miss a swerving Larson.
“I thought we had a pretty good car on long runs today, but we got into the wall, and that ruined our race,” Bowyer said. “We got a lap down but battled back. Our guys didn’t give up, and we got an okay finish.”
Bowyer finished 17th.
Elliott was the only Hendrick Motorsports drivers to finish the race. Like Johnson and Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. also exited the race early. He left the race with a blown engine.
“Just something in my motion. I mean, there really isn’t anything different,” Earnhardt said. “The shifter is not different, the handle is not different, the location, everything is the same. I don’t know; it’s something about my motion that’s not.”
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on June 12, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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