By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – For the second day in a row, the most dominant car will not win the race. Ryan Blaney was swept up in a multi-car accident on lap 117 of the Food City 500. The third-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver was leading at Bristol Motor Speedway with eight laps to go in Stage 1 at the time.
Contact between Chris Buescher and Trevor Bayne sent both drivers spinning down the backstretch. Harrison Rhodes, Jamie McMurray, and Blaney had nowhere to go. Blaney’s No. 12 REV Ford Fusion slammed into the accident, destroying the front end of his Team Penske Ford. His teammate, Brad Keselowski avoided the melee.
“I didn’t see much to be honest with you,” Blaney explained. “By the time I could see anything they were already turned right and there was nowhere to go. Seeing the replay, I don’t know, people not cleared clearing themselves and then wrecking and take the leader out, so that’s unfortunate. Our car was pretty good today. We just kind of got held up there and we might not have been as strong at the end of that run, but I thought we could have at least held on for that stage and never got the chance. The positives you look at is that we had a good car and that’s something to hold your head high about.”
Blaney was leading at the time, leading 100 of the 117 laps. In fact, Team Penske and its’ affiliates held the top-four positions for much of the first 117 laps. With Blaney leading and Keselowski second, Paul Menard in the Wood Brothers Racing Team No. 21 and Joey Logano in Penske’s No. 22 were third and fourth respectively. As the first stage came to a close, Logano and Menard faded.
“It’s obviously frustrating when lapped cars wreck and take the leader out,” Blaney admitted. “That’s unfortunate. They weren’t lap down cars yet, I guess, but I don’t know. I didn’t really see much. By the time I got away from the car right in front of me they were already turned right up the race track and I was already going to the top. I kind of saw them spinning low and I thought that top was gonna be OK and then they slid back up and got us. That stinks. I thought we had a good car and nothing to show for it.”
The last time Blaney failed to finish a race in NASCAR’s Premier Series was the Talladega Playoff race last season. He was swept up in an accident on that day as well.