Ryan Blaney Wins Michigan Cup Race Over Dominant HMS Cars

S. Riely/Getty Images

BROOKLYN, MI – RIS – Ryan Blaney passed William Byron on a late restart and then held off the field for victory in the NASCAR Cup Firekeeper’s Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Though many will say Blaney was the surprise winner, but in a race which ran more like a speedway race (see Daytona and Talladega), his driving was masterful.  It all started with a big push as the drivers came to the restart with ten laps to go.  Kyle Busch’s push propelled Blaney to the lead, which he never gave up. Blaney edged Byron by 0.077 seconds – the closest finish on the two-mile track since electronic scoring began. He has two victories this season and six overall. He only led once for those final eight laps.

"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, but 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."

"Michigan is a matter of pretty much running wide open and trying to play the air game," Blaney said after climbing from his car. "I hate you have to race that way. That's how you have to run. Worked out for us."

Blaney's win is the seventh consecutive win for Ford at Michigan.

Blaney’s win was a Team Penske celebration.  The Penske operation won both the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup races this weekend, but it also ended Kevin Harvick’s domination at the two-mile oval.  Harvick’s consolation prize was wrapping up the 15th spot in the 16-car playoff that begins in two weeks. Harvick was not a factor at all on Sunday. He finished 14th.

Chase Elliott beat his teammate, points leader Larson, to the finish line at the end of the first stage. Austin Dillon added some badly needed stage points in third. Dillon started the day in 17th, the wrong side of the cut line. Unfortunately, Dillon’s day ended with the No. 3 Chevrolet slamming into the outside wall and into the air while racing side by side with Brad Keselowski at the end of the second stage.

"(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.

Next for the Cup drivers is a trip to Daytona International Speedway for the final qualifying race to determine the playoffs participants, with only one spot left. Since it will be a speedway race, all is on the line.

Unofficial Results: 53rd Annual FireKeepers Casino 400, August 22, 2021, Michigan International Speedway: 2 Mile Paved

Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 3, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford, 200, , , 1, 8, 5, 40, Running
2) 18, William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, 200, 5, 9, 1, 18, , 43, Running
3) 1, Kyle Larson, No. 5 Cincinnati Chevrolet, 200, 2, 3, 6, 70, , 51, Running
4) 6, Kurt Busch, No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, 200, 8, , 1, 1, , 36, Running
5) 9, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, 200, 4, 5, 2, 10, , 45, Running
6) 4, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Master Tech/Quick Lane Ford, 200, 7, 10, 1, 1, , 36, Running
7) 7, Kyle Busch, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, 200, 9, 1, 3, 13, 1, 42, Running
8) 2, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 200, 1, 4, 2, 68, 1, 46, Running
9) 20, Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford, 200, 10, 7, 1, 6, , 33, Running
10) 5, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, 200, , , , , , 27, Running
11) 21, Chase Briscoe #, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford, 200, , , , , , 26, Running
12) 12, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger/Maxwell House Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 28, Christopher Bell, No. 20 Rheem Toyota, 200, , 2, 2, 3, , 33, Running
14) 8, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford, 200, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 11, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Castrol Ford, 200, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 10, Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 23, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 200, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 13, Erik Jones, No. 43 Medallion Bank Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 15, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 McDonald's Toyota, 200, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 25, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Martin Transportation Systems Ford, 200, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 32, Ryan Preece, No. 37 Entenmann's Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 30, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 15, Running
23) 27, Cole Custer, No. 41 Feeding America/Wow Wow Ford, 200, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 16, Ryan Newman, No. 6 ITsavvy Ford, 200, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 17, Justin Haley(i), No. 77 General Formulations/Mutoh Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 0, Running
26) 24, Josh Berry(i), No. 7 Nations Guard Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 0, Running
27) 37, Cody Ware(i), No. 51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet, 199, , , , , , 0, Running
28) 36, BJ McLeod(i), No. 78 Keen Parts Ford, 198, , , , , , 0, Running
29) 14, Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet, 198, , 8, , , , 11, Running
30) 31, Quin Houff, No. 00 YMCA/CREEK Chevrolet, 196, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 29, Josh Bilicki, No. 52 Zeigler Auto Grou Ford, 195, , , , , , 6, Running
32) 33, Garrett Smithley(i), No. 53 Kendall Motor Oil Chevrolet, 194, , , , , , 0, Running
33) 19, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 188, 6, , , , , 9, DVP
34) 35, Anthony Alfredo #, No. 38 TheGoldenNuggetCasino.com Ford, 178, , , , , , 3, Running
35) 22, Ross Chastain, No. 42 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet, 152, , , , , , 2, Running
36) 26, Austin Dillon, No. 3 BREZTRI Chevrolet, 120, 3, 6, 1, 2, , 14, Accident
37) 34, Joey Gase(i), No. 15 Lisa Foundation Chevrolet, 29, , , , , , 0, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 27 Secs.
Race Length: 200 Laps, 400. Miles
Average Speed: 142.476 MPH
Margin of Victory: .077 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 9, 5, 3, 11, 24, 22, 21, 1, 18, 2
Stage 2 Top 10: 18, 20, 5, 9, 11, 3, 2, 8, 24, 21

Comments: Ryan Blaney has won the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, his sixth victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Prior to the start, the following vehicles dropped to the rear of the field under penalty: Nos. 7, 15 (Driver Change). 

Caution Flags: 6 for 29 laps;
Laps: 22-25 (Competition [53]);
32-35 (No. 15 Incident Turn 2 [None]);
62-66 (Stage 1 Conclusion [00]);
122-126 (Stage 2 Conclusion / No. 2, 3 Incident Frontstretch [77]);
181-186 (Weather [43]);
188-192 (No. 6, 7, 8, 19, 20, 22, 34 Incident Turn 4 [51]).

Lead Changes: 20 among 11 drivers;
K. Larson 1-2;
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;
K. Busch 111-113;
C. Bell 114-115;
K. Busch 116-122;
K. Larson 123-126;
K. Busch 127;
K. Larson 128-158;
D. Hamlin 159-164;
K. Busch 165-167;
B. Keselowski 168-173;
C. Bell 174;
W. Byron 175-192;
R. Blaney 193-200.

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2021, Issue 8, Posted 8:09 PM, 08.22.2021