NASCAR Barometer: Blaney Wins at Michigan

NASCAR Barometer: Blaney Wins at Michigan

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Sunday's visit to Michigan International Speedway culminated in a frantic eight-lap dash to the finish where Ryan Blaney held off a frenzied attack from multiple cars behind, narrowly beating Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson to the finish line. Blaney's restart was the key to picking up his second victory of the season after the Chevrolet-powered teammates dominated the race, leading more than 150 of the 200 laps run. After getting to the front, Blaney simply placed his car in the ideal spot to keep the charge from behind at bay through the final miles. The win marked the seventh consecutive Michigan victory for Ford and gives Blaney an extra bit of confidence ahead of the playoffs.

Only one more regular-season race remains for drivers to earn their spots in the championship battle. The unpredictable high banks of Daytona International Speedway await in a race that could shake up the fight for the final playoff positions. The battle remains an intramural fight between Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon, both of whom suffered nightmare afternoons at Michigan. The gap between the two is just 25 points, but a win from any almost any other driver not currently locked into the playoffs could mean both would end up on the outside looking in.

UPGRADE

Ryan Blaney – Blaney didn't start Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 well, but he sure finished it strongly. He took command at the front on the final restart and was able to hold off charges from

Sunday's visit to Michigan International Speedway culminated in a frantic eight-lap dash to the finish where Ryan Blaney held off a frenzied attack from multiple cars behind, narrowly beating Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson to the finish line. Blaney's restart was the key to picking up his second victory of the season after the Chevrolet-powered teammates dominated the race, leading more than 150 of the 200 laps run. After getting to the front, Blaney simply placed his car in the ideal spot to keep the charge from behind at bay through the final miles. The win marked the seventh consecutive Michigan victory for Ford and gives Blaney an extra bit of confidence ahead of the playoffs.

Only one more regular-season race remains for drivers to earn their spots in the championship battle. The unpredictable high banks of Daytona International Speedway await in a race that could shake up the fight for the final playoff positions. The battle remains an intramural fight between Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon, both of whom suffered nightmare afternoons at Michigan. The gap between the two is just 25 points, but a win from any almost any other driver not currently locked into the playoffs could mean both would end up on the outside looking in.

UPGRADE

Ryan Blaney – Blaney didn't start Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 well, but he sure finished it strongly. He took command at the front on the final restart and was able to hold off charges from both Larson and Byron in the final laps to claim his second win of the season. His victory means Ford has won the last seven Michigan races, two of which are now credited to Team Penske. Sunday's victory gives Blaney a head full of confidence with one trip to Daytona standing between him and the start of the playoffs. He has never won at the famous superspeedway, but he has two top-10s from the last three races, including a runner-up finish in last year's Daytona 500. 

Chase Elliott – Elliott started Sunday's Michigan race in prime form. The defending series champion jumped into the lead and held on to win the first stage ahead of teammate Larson. He lost track position through pit stops later in the race and wasn't as fast in traffic as he was in the lead. Elliott continued to dig and slowly climbed forward to finish eighth in a scramble of cars at the finish. Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports will certainly be disappointed not to have the win after fielding the fastest cars all afternoon but should take solace in that speed as the 10-race championship elimination fight looms on the horizon. Elliott has two top-five finishes at Daytona – runner up in the last two – from 11 career starts.

Kyle Busch – Busch sacrificed a bit of track position for the final stage in order to secure a playoff point by making a two-tire stop to win the second stage at Michigan. The move was a small price to pay for an extra point that will follow him throughout the playoffs as long as he avoids elimination. He recovered from both front-end damage after contact with Martin Truex Jr. in the opening laps of the race and overshooting his pit stall in the final stage to finish seventh in a decent day for the former champion. Busch has one Daytona win, which came in 2008. Fantasy players will also be interested to know that he has only finished in the top 10 in a points race there twice in the last 10 races.

Kyle Larson – Larson was quick again Sunday at Michigan. It was the first time he visited the track at which he has had plenty of past success with Hendrick Motorsports, and he spent much of the day as the fastest car in the field along with teammate Elliott. He was in a battle with teammate Byron and others in the final laps, but said after the race he chose to play it safe and race for points versus the win in an effort to extend his regular-season championship lead over Denny Hamlin. He has never won a points race at Daytona and has just five top-10s from 14 starts at the track. However, three of those top-10s came in the last four races, including this year's Daytona 500.

Kevin Harvick – It wasn't the way he wanted to do it, but Harvick secured a spot in the playoffs Sunday at Michigan. The Stewart Haas Racing driver had been one of the fastest drivers at the circuit in recent seasons, sweeping victories at the track last year, but was largely quiet this past Sunday. His 14th-place finish came without any stage points, but he secured his spot in the championship battle by virtue of Blaney, who is already assured of a playoff spot, pulling into Victory Lane. Despite the good news, it was another relatively anonymous day for the former champion. This team needs to step up its pace, lead laps and challenge for wins if they hope to advance through the playoffs for a chance at another title.

DOWNGRADE

Austin Dillon – Dillon started Sunday's race with a very fast car that looked like it might challenge for the win. He scored stage points in both opening segments ahead of teammate and playoff rival Reddick. Things looked good for Dillon to overcome the points deficit and enter next week's race at Daytona with the upper hand. That all changed in an instant after he collided with Brad Keselowski just after the finish of the second stage, turning the No. 3 hard into the outside wall and out of the race. Dillon now faces a tense situation this week at Daytona, where he last won in 2018. He was third in this year's Daytona 500 and could still race his way into the championship battle.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex made early contact with teammate Kyle Busch at Michigan, which ruined the handling of his car. The damage took multiple trips to pit road to repair and left him outside of the top 30 after the competition caution period. The repairs worked, and Truex began climbing his way back through traffic and into the top 10 by the end of the race. However, that small misstep with a teammate could prove much more detrimental once the playoffs start. The team is safely in the championship hunt with three wins this season, but they continue to be a half step behind the competition and need to eliminate mistakes to contend for the title. Truex has never won a Daytona points race and has just five top-10s from 32 career starts at the track.

Joey Logano – After a long afternoon, Logano had himself in position to land a top-10 finish to help build momentum ahead of the playoffs. On a restart with less than 15 laps remaining, he did all he could to avoid a dive-bomb move from Reddick only to have Truex pushing from behind, which caused the No. 22 machine to lose control. That spin in traffic and the contact he suffered from cars coming into him from behind, left him and the team scrambling to make repairs and complete the final laps, leaving him 12 laps down and in 33rd position for the day. Logano's only Daytona points win came in 2015 when he won the Daytona 500. He crashed out of five of the last eight races at the track but has led laps in each of the last five. 

Tyler Reddick – Championship rival and teammate Dillon's trouble Sunday could have been an opening for Reddick to extend his points cushion in their playoff battle. Instead, Reddick missed out on stage points in both opening segments and then crashed in the final stage. It was a disappointing day for the No. 8 team that actually lost points to Dillon despite the No. 3 crashing completely out of the race. Now both drivers face having to race their way into the championship fight this week at Daytona. Both have been quick at the track in the past, and it is bound to be a tight battle with stage points being critical. Unfortunately for Reddick, he has crash out of three of his four series starts there.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Matt DiBenedetto – DiBenedetto continued his showcase for future employers with another top-10 run Sunday at Michigan. The Wood Brothers Racing driver took stage points in both opening stages and then went on to finish a confident sixth, his best finish at the track and second top-10 in as many races there. With Sunday's finish, he now has six consecutive finishes of 11th or better and sits 18th in the standings. He is doing everything he can and should to attract teams looking for a driver next season. The only piece missing from his resume at this point is a victory, which could come as soon as this week. DiBenedetto has three top-10 finishes from 12 career starts. A win this week would put him in the playoffs and go a long way toward future employment.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR Barometer: Christopher Bell Wins Rain Shortened Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR Barometer: Christopher Bell Wins Rain Shortened Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200