Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Points Leader Blaney’s Race Ends Early at Phoenix

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

NASCAR Cup Series points leader Ryan Blaney didn’t get to the conclusion of Stage 1 after being taken out in a three-car crash during Sunday’s FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

Fresh off signing a multi-year contract extension with Team Penske, Blaney was poised to have some good luck on his side, which he hasn’t had despite having a 12-point lead over his teammate Joey Logano.

After Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. spun and make wall contact to bring out the first caution, the field reshuffled and took the restart on Lap 64 when Blaney’s afternoon was cut short.

Denny Hamlin was in a frantic three-wide battle for fifth on the backstretch, but after bumping fourth-place Logano, all hell went loose. Hamlin lost grip and tangled into the left rear quarter panel of Brad Keselowski which got him sideways.

Meanwhile, Blaney was running in eighth when he became an innocent bystander and got collected in their mess. Blaney received contact from Hamlin which punted him into the Turn 3 wall hard as both Hamlin and Keselowski spun around to bring out the second caution of the afternoon.

Hamlin and Keselowski sustained significant damage, but were able to continue their race. Blaney on the other hand, his No. 12 Tarkett/Menards Ford Mustang had severe damage that it broke the upper control arm and was forced to retire for the first time this season.

It’s Blaney’s first DNF since Dover last October when a suspension failure cut his race short.

Blaney said from his perspective, he couldn’t really see what happened with Hamlin that could’ve collected the entire Penske stable in the crash, but it did appear he got loose and overcorrected his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry.

“A couple of us were three-wide. I was happy to be on the top. I thought we were going to roll the top pretty good through three and four there,” Blaney said. “It looks like the 11 tried to send it in there below the 2 and got loose and hit him and then overcorrected and got us. We got up in the dirt and we just ran right into the fence. Just an innocent bystander there.

“It sucks to have it end so early like that and have that happen so early in the race. I do really hate it for Menards and Tarkett and Ford. We didn’t even have a chance to work on our car. We weren’t great the first run but we made a big swing at it and we don’t know how that change was. It stinks when you are taken out like that. We will just go on to Atlanta and see what we can do.”

Pending on post-race inspection, Blaney is slated to finish 37th as Timmy Hill was already out due to an engine failure, so he avoids his fourth-career last-place result.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.