Ryan Blaney scores popular NASCAR win for Wood Brothers Racing
Sometimes, silence truly is golden.
Despite having a team radio that did not work properly in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, Ryan Blaney earned the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of his young career Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Blaney passed Kyle Busch with 10 laps to go and then had to hold off Kevin Harvick over the final laps to go to Victory Lane in the Pocono 400. Harvick put the pressure on in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, but could not make the winning pass on the final lap.
The second-generation driver from Ohio whose father, Dave, raced in the Cup Series said the reality of winning his first Cup race exceeded all expectations.
“I think it exceeds the dream a little bit," Blaney said. "I grew up watching my dad race on this race track and it’s so cool to get the Wood Brothers in Victory Lane, number one, and to do it here at a race track that is really close to Ohio – a home to me – is pretty awesome.”
Blaney benefitted from the fact that he fresher tires than Busch, who stayed out when the other top contenders all pitted with 17 laps to go.
"Kyle stayed out and he was on a little bit older tires and it looked like he was getting pretty tight, especially off of (Turn) 1 and that’s where new tires really seemed to come alive because you could hold the line and get runs on him, downshift and get next to him," Blaney said. "I had a big run on him off of three and he did a good job blocking, and we were able to get under him, but then I had to hold the 4 (of Harvick) off. He was super-fast. I can’t thank Kevin enough for racing me clean. That was really cool of him, but it was definitely hectic.
"Hopefully the fans liked it. It was really cool.”
It broke a 122-race winless streak for Wood Brothers Racing, which last won a race when Trevor Bayne scored an upset victory in the 2011 Daytona 500. It also was the 99th all-time win for the storied organization.
Busch was left disappointed -- again -- after leading a race-high 100 laps. He faded to ninth by the finish and still has not won a race yet this season. He was working with interim crew chief Ben Beshore, who is filling in for Adam Stevens -- Busch's regular crew chief who is serving a four-race suspension after a wheel came off the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota a week earlier at Dover.
Harvick finished second, with Cup rookie Erik Jones grabbing a career-high third. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Blaney admitted he most wished his team radio had been working at the end of the race, because he said he wanted to get on it and thank Eddie and Len Wood, second-generation team owners who now run Wood Brothers Racing, for giving him the opportunity to drive full time in the Cup Series. The organization was founded in 1950 by their fathers, NASCAR Hall of Famers Leonard and Glen Wood.
"I wanted to pick Eddie and Len up," Blaney said. "I wanted to find them and pick them up, but it figures the one race we don’t have radio communication we end up winning it. Maybe we should turn the radio off more often, but I wanted to try to find Eddie and Len. I wanted to give them a ride to Victory Lane. That would have been cool, but maybe if we can get another one we’ll be able to do that."