DAYTONA, Fla. - Ryan Blaney registered his second straight win and third of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with a thrilling overtime victory on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
The race, which ended the regular season and set the field for the 16-driver, 10-race playoff, was filled with twists and turns that eventually centered on Ford drivers Chris Buescher and Blaney. Buescher needed a victory for his Roush Fenway Racing team in order to make the postseason, and put himself in position when he got through a multi-car accident with three laps to go and found himself as the leader.
On the ensuing restart, Buescher picked the outside lane while Blaney was next to him on the inside. Both drivers got to the throttle well, but Blaney’s inside lane held together better, which enabled Blaney to get a bigger push and ultimately the lead. Buescher was in the midst of mounting a final charge on the last lap, but another major accident brought out the caution and ended the race.
Blaney and Buescher finished 1-2, but after the race NASCAR disqualified Buescher for an unapproved track bar assembly. That moved Ryan Newman from fourth to third in the final running order.
Ford will have six drivers compete for the championship. All three Team Penske drivers -- Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Blaney -- qualified while Stewart-Haas drivers Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick advanced. Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell will represent Front Row Motorsports in the postseason field.
The NASCAR Cup Series will begin its 10-race playoff season on Sunday, Sept. 5 at Darlington Raceway for the annual Southern 500 Labor Day Weekend event (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM).
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Ryan Blaney
2nd -- Bubba Wallace
3rd -- Ryan Newman
4th -- Ryan Preece
5th -- Tyler Reddick
6th -- Justin Haley
7th -- Alex Bowman
8th -- Chase Elliott
9th -- B.J. McLeod
10th -- Josh Bilicki
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
14th -- Aric Almirola
15th -- Kevin Harvick
21st -- Chase Briscoe
23rd -- Joey Logano
24th -- Cole Custer
25th -- Matt DiBenedetto
26th -- Anthony Alfredo
33rd -- Brad Keselowski
39th -- Michael McDowell
DQ -- Chris Buescher
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 BodyArmor Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVEW:
DESCRIBE THE LAST FEW LAPS?
“It was wild. We missed that big one barely. I don’t know how we missed it and then we got a restart on the front row and it was kind of a drag race. I’m really thankful to LaJoie, who gave me a really good push and we were able to get clear on the restart, so I appreciate the push from him. I was having to hold off the 4 and the 17 and the 7 and I didn’t really know which lane to go with down the back, so I kind of picked the middle and I kind of committed to the bottom and I guess some people got turned, but what a couple of cool weeks that’s for sure. It was a very eventful race. It’s so cool to be here in victory lane in Daytona. Maybe we’re on a roll right now and we’ve got everything going our way. Hopefully, we keep it up.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS MOMENTUM WITH TWO STRAIGHT GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
“It’s huge. Momentum is what everything is all about. Confidence is key and we came into this weekend very confident after last week with our heads held high. They’ll be a little bit higher this week, so I look forward to getting to Darlington. It’s a great way to end the regular season, but we’ve still got work to do. We’ve got 10 weeks of work to do and I’ll look forward to them.”
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang
“It hurts, honestly. I guess at the end of the day on one side I’m glad to see another Ford in victory lane, but it hurts that it wasn’t us. It hurts to get this close and not quite make it and to be sitting here right at the moment. We got a good fire on the restart, but our lane didn’t materialize near as well.”
YOU WERE AGGRESSIVE AND BLOCKED ALL NIGHT. WERE YOU HAPPY WITH HOW YOU DID?
“Yeah, we absolutely had to throw big blocks -- more than I’ve ever done in my career and it worked out. The shame of it is you have to do it at these kinds of races now.”
ANY SECOND THOUGHTS?
“I’m sure there will be some regrets along the way, but it was an awesome race. It was a pretty awesome day. Fifth Third Bank announced they’re coming back for the next five years at Roush Fenway Racing, so we’re proud to get them a solid finish here. We were in a must-win and we knew it. We got so close and it stinks.”
DID YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE MADE THE MOVE AROUND THE 12 IF THE CAUTION HADN’T COME OUT AT THE END?
“It’s hard to say. I mean, he was out by himself and we had a little momentum. I don’t know if we had any help behind us, though. I don’t think we did. Maybe there’s some kind of attack there at the end, but it’s not even worth speculating because ultimately that’s a safety thing. We had a big crash and the caution had to come out, so I won’t even think about that one.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Pirtek Ford Mustang
WHAT HAPPENED FROM YOUR SEAT?
“I checked up a little bit. The 37 was flying in front of me and I had to check up for that and got hit from behind. It’s unfortunate. Another foot and we’d have been in a great position here to have a run to win the race. Instead, we got caught up here. I was doing great all the way until the 37 starts spinning. I checked up and just barely got the quarter panel, so it’s a bummer. We’d been putting ourselves in position and trying to be smart and just missed it by a little bit.”
PLAYOFFS START NEXT WEEK. HOW STRONG CAN THE 2 BE?
“I don’t like our starting spot for next week, I can tell you that, but Darlington is a super long race so we’ll see.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS NEXT WEEK?
“I’m just really happy to be going to the playoffs. It’s been a tough season for us, so to get that win at New Hampshire was huge and we’ll go these next 10 weeks and maximize our days and execute with perfection and just do everything we can to score all the points we can and try and win a race here or there. We’ll see.”
THIS RACE TONIGHT WAS SIMILAR TO YOUR SEASON WITH SOME ADVERSITY AND THEN COMING BACK.
“Yeah, it was just one of those days. It was an up-and-down day. We definitely fought really really hard to get track position and I finally got it there at the end. I made a move to pull out on the restart. I thought the 41 might go with me and I misjudged and kind of got hung out there on the bottom.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Unibet Ford Mustang
YOU GOT TURNED AT THE END. DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SAW?
“I didn’t see anything. I got hit in the left rear quarter panel and then we wrecked a lot, but everybody on our Unibet Ford Mustang did a good job. We had a shot there at the end and that’s all you can ask and just wound up in a wreck.”
RODNEY SAID EARLIER THAT HE THOUGHT TRACKS LIKE DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA WERE IN YOUR WHEELHOUSE THIS YEAR AND THOSE WERE YOUR BEST SHOT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS WITH TRACKS LIKE DARLINGTON AND TALLADEGA COMING UP?
“I don’t think I’d agree with that. We’ve run well at the superspeedways, but I don’t think that’s our only shot.”
HOW DO YOU VIEW DARLINGTON NEXT WEEK?
“That’s really as far ahead as I look is one week at a time. We go to Darlington. The track is a little bit different off of turn two and just go race.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang
“We had a fast car. Our Mustang was fast and won a stage, which was great. We got a playoff point. We had a shot to win there and the 11 just threw a late block and fenced me and then I had a right rear down. Luckily, I didn’t take out the whole field that time, but that got taken care of the next lap, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS?
“I feel good about our speed and confident with what we have. It’s just that something has been happening every week. Like I said, we scored that stage point which is always valuable. That goes along with you, which is a little better than where we finished, but it is what it is.”
YOU SAID YOU GOT FENCED BY THE 11. DO THOSE THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS CARRY OVER TO THE PLAYOFFS FIGHTING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP?
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE PACKAGE?
“The same. It was no better. We all crashed on the last lap anyway. It doesn’t make a difference.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 CarParts.com Ford Mustang
“It’s so unfortunate. It’s heartbreaking. Our car was really good. We had to go to the tail and we were able to drive back in the top 20. I felt like it was really racy. I was being pretty conservative and then under the caution I just lost oil pressure. It’s really unfortunate.”
NEXT WEEK IS A NEW SEASON, THOUGH, SO BETTER TO GET IT OUT OF THE WAY TONIGHT?
“Yeah, that’s right. It’s a brand new season for us next week kicking off the playoffs. I’m glad we’re locked in and didn’t have to do it tonight, but it’s heartbreaking. We put so much emphasis on these races knowing that they’re our opportunity. We had a really fast CarParts.com Ford again, so disappointing, but glad we got the win here in February. We’re excited to go into the playoffs. Our car is in one piece, so I guess that’s tonight’s highlight.”