DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Roger Penske’s trio of Ford Fusions dominated the first Can-Am Duel at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Thursday night, with his newest hire Ryan Blaney making a late charge to end up in victory lane.
Blaney beat teammate Joey Logano to the start-finish line by .207 of a second, with Darrell Wallace Jr. trailing just behind in third after pushing Blaney to the lead on an overtime restart.
The win marked Blaney’s first victory as a member of Team Penske proper, having moved over in a third car for the team after racing for the Wood Brothers the last two Cup seasons, and also gave him 10 points to open the season with as well.
But in typical fashion for the 24-year-old, there was no burnout to commemorate the win, and even his victory lane celebration came without the usual Gatorade shower.
“I have to thank everyone (back here). (That) was a little weird that there was no water being sprayed,” admitted Blaney, who will start third in Sunday’s Daytona 500. “It was very unenthusiastic (laughs).”
“I saw (Bubba) was third and I’d figure he’d give me a good push,” Blaney added. “He did a great job all race. I can’t thank everyone at Menards and Peak enough for giving me a really fast race car. I thought our cars in the Clash and tonight were really, really good. It’s awesome what we have; we’ve got amazing speed. Hopefully we can bring it home on Sunday.”
After the trio of Logano, Blaney and Brad Keselowski ran in lock-step formation from lap two until the three to go mark, Blaney was the first man to step out of line in an attempt to win the 150-mile qualifying race, ducking side-by-side to do battle with Logano for the lead going down the backstretch.
As Keselowski stayed high in an attempt to push Logano back clear of Blaney, Jamie McMurray stuck his Chevrolet in a rapidly closing hole on the high side, with Keselowski coming back up the track at the same moment that McMurray got to the quarter-panel of the No. 2.
The ensuing contact tipped Keselowski into the outside wall as the field scattered around him, setting up the overtime finish and pushing the race three circuits past its scheduled 60-lap distance.
That was of no matter to Blaney, who drove away from Logano and Wallace’s duel for second coming to the checkered flag.
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