Ryan Blaney took the lead on a restart with eight laps to go and went on to win Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in the closest finish at the track since the advent of electronic scoring.
Blaney beat William Byron by 0.077 seconds.
“That was cool,” Blaney told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “I’m fired up!”
It is Blaney’s second win of the season. His other win this season was at Atlanta in March. This marks the first in Blaney’s career he’s won multiple races in a season.
MORE: What drivers said
The key moment came on the final restart. Blaney was fourth to chose his lane. The top three cars took the outside lane. Blaney moved to the inside of the first row. On the restart, Byron, the leader, went wide in Turn 1 to block Denny Hamlin as Blaney charged on the inside and cleared both. Blaney kept the lead the rest of the way.
“He was so concerned with me, he lost the lead,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns, referring to Byron.
“This was like a plate race in disguise,” Kurt Busch told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman.
Kevin Harvick finished 14th. He clinched the 15th playoff spot, leaving one spot to be grabbed next weekend at Daytona. Tyler Reddick holds that final spot by 25 points on Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, whose race turned dramatically after the second stage.
Dillon will need to win next weekend at Daytona in the final race of the regular season to make the playoffs after he crashed.
Dillon raced Brad Keselowski for sixth place in the second stage. After crossing the line to end the stage, the cars made contact, sending Dillon up the track. He slammed into the SAFER barrier. His car got on two wheels before coming back down. Dillon walked away from the incident.
“I didn’t want to do that,” Keselowski said on his team’s radio. “I didn’t want to wreck him. … I’m sorry about that.”
After the race, Keselowski said: “I hate that I had that contact with (Dillon). That really sucks for everybody. It really hurt our day and obviously ruined his. That was crappy. So it goes.”
Dillon told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns: “I was just trying to get as many stage points as I could get right there. Did a good job of sidedrafting and came down to the apron … it was after the start/finish line. I was starting to come up off the apron because it was so rough down there. I figured by that point he would have given me a little room.
“I’m thankful that the good Lord kept me safe today. That was a heck of a wreck, but I feel fine. I hate it for … my guys. They built a rocket ship. They really wanted this one, and I did too. Was working our tails off right there. I think we would have had a shot to do something there at the end with that race car. Best race car we have brought to the track at RCR this year I feel like. Just a bummer. We’ve got Daytona left.
“Just hate it. I don’t know why it happened. I thought I had a little room to come up, and he just held me down there a little bit too long, I guess.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Elliott
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish marks the sixth race in a row he has finished 11th or better. … Kyle Larson’s third-place finish is the 10th time in the last 14 races he has placed in the top three. … Kyle Busch’s seventh-place finish is his ninth top 10 in a row at Michigan.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After placing third in the opening stage and sixth in the second stage, Austin Dillon wrecked after contact with Brad Keselowski and finished 36th. … Joey Logano finished 33rd…