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Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona; Larson top playoff seed

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney picked up his second straight NASCAR Cup Series victory winning Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Blaney was out front on the last lap when a multi-car crash occurred in the last turn during NASCAR overtime to seal the victory for the driver and No. 12 Ford Mustang crew.

“Cool to get our second win in a row,” said Blaney. “Got a great push by Corey LaJoie. That was the big push that got us ahead to the lead. I think he pushed me so good, I mean, me, Corey and the 4 all got single file. We were able to be ahead there when that last wreck on the backstretch happened.”

LaJoie was one of nine-cars involved in that Turn 3 crash on the final lap.  Four of the drivers,  Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and LaJoie, needed a victory to qualify for the Playoffs.

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Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick earned the 16th Playoff position, beating out teammate Austin Dillon for the final spot.

Kyle Larson claimed NASCAR’s regular season title based on the strength of his series-leading five victories in 2021.

The back-to-back victories moved Blaney into the second spot in the Playoffs followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch in third and fourth.

2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott is fifth followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman in sixth.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is seventh and William Byron is eighth.  Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski round out the Top 10.

The final six playoff seeds include Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch, JGR’s Christopher Bell, this year’s Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, Stewart Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, Reddick and former Cup Champ Kevin Harvick.

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NASCAR

Martin Truex Jr. leads Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2-3 at Richmond

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RICHMOND, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Martin Truex Jr. overcame a first lap penalty for jumping the start of the race and came back to win Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at Richmond Raceway.

Truex beat Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell for the win, which automatically advances Truex to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs that begins in two weeks at Las Vegas.

“I let the 11 (Hamlin) get a nose out in front of me to get the launch first,” explained Truex about the start of the race.  “I wasn’t going to jump him, and then he spun the tires and stopped. What am I supposed to do, stand on the brakes and crash the field behind me?”

Fortunately Truex didn’t crash the field behind him but he was sent to pit road to serve the penalty, which left him the last car in the field.

Hamlin, who led a race-high 197-laps, held on for second place and is also locked into the Round of 12 after his win last weekend at Darlington.

“The whole JGR team had fast cars for all of us today. I really wish we had gotten two in a row, but regardless still a great day for the team,” Hamlin said.

Chase Elliott rallied for a fourth place finish after having losing a lap after trouble in the pits.

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Joey Logano finished fifth with Kyle Larson in sixth.  Larson is also locked into the Round of 12 on points.

Four playoff drivers head into Bristol outside of the Top 12 and need to either win or score a ton of points in order to advance.

Hendrick Motorsports Alex Bowman sits in 12th spot after a 12th place finish at Richmond.  Bowman is tied in points with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch but Busch wins the tiebreaker by having the best finish in the round.  Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Michael McDowell are also on the outside looking in.

Busch was having a great run and even came off pit road in the lead following the competition caution on lap 32 but disaster struck on lap 42.

“Something happened in that left rear,” explained Busch. “It let go and it let go of our points and it let go of our whole season right now.”

Cup Richmond Results

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NASCAR

Blaney Grabs Win At Michigan

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BROOKLYN, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney led the final eight laps to win Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.  Blaney took the lead on a restart to pick up his second win of the year and sixth of his career.

“Man, I’m proud of everybody on the 12 team,” said Blaney. “We weren’t great to start the day off. We kept working and working and got a lot better. It’s so cool to get in Victory Lane for Ford here. This is such a huge win for Ford, Penske, Menards, Cardell, Bodyarmor. I can’t thank them enough, what they do. That was cool, man. I’m fired up. I’m fired up.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson finished second and third followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch in fourth.

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“I had points on my mind a little bit too much,” said Larson. I’m looking in my mirror. I saw the 11 (Denny Hamlin) falling back some. I just didn’t want to screw it up really.  I felt like I had to weigh the risk versus reward. I could risk going for the win, not having it work out, end up 30 something and lose the point lead going into Daytona or I could be a little bit more cautious, beat Denny by a couple spots, which is what we did.”

Hamlin finished fifth and trails Larson by 28-points going into NASCAR’s regular season finale, the Coke Zero 400, Saturday August 28th at 7:00 p.m. at Daytona International Speedway.

Michigan Cup Results

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NASCAR

A.J. Allmendinger wins wild NASCAR Cup Series race on Indy road course

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A.J. Allmendinger survived a wild NASCAR overtime to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Allmendinger held off Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson to pick up Kaulig Racing’s first victory in the Cup Series.

“That was an insane race,” said Allmendinger. “We were 17th with nine, eight to go, and I was like, all right, maybe we get a top 10, and luckily we’ve got a team owner that says trophy hunting. He doesn’t care if the car is wrecked, bring it back on the wrecker or you go win the race.”

Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe were out front on the final restart and raced each other hard into the first turn, a right hander off the front stretch into the infield.  Hamlin squeezed Briscoe into the grass but Briscoe never lifted and drove through it only to come back out onto the track fighting for the lead.  That’s when NASCAR penalized him for advancing his position, only Briscoe didn’t hear it over his radio and later in the lap spun Hamlin out.

“I knew Denny was on old tires, and I didn’t know if Chase was on older tires or not,” explained Allmendinger. “I was trying to be aggressive. In my mind if I could somehow clear them and get them racing, I can drive away because I have better tires than they do. They told me the 14 had a penalty, and then I guess he got in the back of Denny and the seas parted at that point, and then it was like, run like hell because the 12 and everybody else, Kyle Larson is behind us.”

Allmendinger did run like hell all the way across the yard of bricks to score a popular win at the Brickyard.

Three Rivers Karting

Blaney survived the craziness to bring home his No. 12 Ford Mustang home in second place.

“We weren’t great all day,” said Blaney.  “Found ourselves sitting there fifth on the last restart and had a shot to win the race and just couldn’t quite get to the 16 at the end there. He was a little bit better than me. But man, that stings even more to run second here, especially trying to win for Roger and trying to make it a perfect weekend for Penske. But just survived the carnage.”

Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson led the most laps of the day but elected to pit for tires late while Hamlin and Briscoe elected to stay out for track position.

Larson’s teammate Chase Elliott finished fourth after rallying from a poor pit stop when the No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet fell off the jack.

With two races remaining to set the 16-driver Playoff field, the NASCAR Cup Series races returns to the big oval next in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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