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NASCAR Cup: Ryan Blaney wins inaugural Bank of America Roval 400

CHARLOTTE, NC – SEPTEMBER 30: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 30, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Ryan Blaney won the inaugural Bank of America 400 on Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway’s new Roval on Sunday, cementing his advancement to the second round of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs to begin Oct. 7 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

“I’m just happy to not only win but advance,” Blaney said. “Can’t think of a better group of guys to be with and just looking forward to the next round.”

Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson ran first and second on the final lap, but racing for the win, they made contact and both spun in the final two turns of the final laps, allowing Blaney to drive by for the win. It was Blaney’s second-career win, but his first of the season.

“Last corner desperation behind us; that’s what you get,” Truex said. “I gave him [Johnson] the inside lane, and he had the run through four, and I was real tight down there. I let him have the inside going down inside coming out of four, there, to the chicane. He just over-drove it and was never going to make it and used me as brakes and turned us both around. It sucks; we could have raced side-by-side off the last corner for a win, and that would have been cool. The fans would have been digging it, but instead, we finished 14th, and he’s locked out of the playoffs. I guess that’s what he gets.”

Johnson wound up eighth at the finish and Truex 14th. Despite the top-10, Johnson failed to advance to the second round of the playoffs. After the race, he wound up in a three-way points tie with Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson. By virtue of a tie-breaker — highest individual finishes in the three races of the first round — Almirola and Larson took the last two positions in the round of 12, or second round, of the playoffs.

“I wish I wouldn’t have been so focused on a race win, and I could have transferred and kept my championship hopes alive, but we had such a good car and just one of those split-second decisions to race for the win instead of for the points, and it bit me,” Johnson said.

Other drivers eliminated from the playoffs at Charlotte included Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones.

Jamie McMurray was the only non-playoff driver to finish in the top-five on Sunday, taking runner-up honors.

“Our DC Solar Chevy was really good all day long,” McMurray said. ”We got a little bit off in the last pit sequence. We got a little bit behind but had a really good car, and then, we had the one restart when Brad (Keselowski) was on the front row and I happened to be on the inside, and that was the lane to be in so you could avoid the wreck. And then, on the last restart, I got a good restart being on the outside. A little bit disappointed only because my left-side mirror fell off in the chicane with, like, 25-laps to go, and I ended up having to let the No. 12 (Blaney) go, because I couldn’t see if he was inside of me. I don’t think he was. I’m like, if that wasn’t the case, you would be the guy in victory lane now versus finishing second, but overall, it was a pretty fun day.  I thought Marcus (Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway President) and the team here did a really good job getting the track ready. It’s crazy that we ran a road course inside of this facility, but really great place.”

Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch finished third through fifth.

Truex and Johnson were on the front row for the final restart of the race with three laps remaining after previous leader Brad Keselowski hit the wall in turn one on a lap-103 restart. Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch, who also were in the top-five, were collected in the lap-103 incident.

“I guess just comes down to us all being on old tires and not really knowing what to expect or how much grip these tires would actually have,” Busch said. “Just not having anything better to do than drive it off into a 90-degree corner and into a wall. That’s about all that happened; we all over-drove the corner, and that’s all there is to it.”

Larson gave up the race lead to pit under a caution on lap 69. Busch and Truex also were among those who pitted, and Keselowski moved into the lead after staying out. Larson got back up to second but didn’t close on leader Keselowski, instead going into fuel-conservation mode.

Larson won the opening stage after taking the lead from pole sitter Kurt Busch on lap seven. He ran up front for the remainder of the first 25-lap stage, and then, stayed out during the caution between the first two stages to maintain his lead.

Larson, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex opted for a race strategy that included only two pit stops. Busch and Truex made their first stops under green on lap 36, and Larson pitted a lap later. As other drivers cycled through pit stops over the course of the remainder of the second stage, Ryan Blaney moved to the front to win the second stage.

After more pit stops during the caution after the second stage, Larson cycled back up to the lead and Busch to third to start stage three. Truex, though, along with Brad Keselowski, spun on lap 49, so Truex was farther back for the restart.

Aside from the two yellow flags after the end of the first two stages of the race, the yellow flag waved only one other time in the first 50 laps of the 109-lap race, but five cautions littered the final 59 laps of the race. The final caution of the race led to a red flag to repair a retaining wall.

Chase Elliott finished sixth, A.J. Allmendinger was seventh, Johnson eighth, Kevin Harvick ninth and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10.

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Posted by on September 30, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,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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