By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
After winning his first career pole on Friday, Ryan Blaney headed into Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas as one of the favorites to be able to contend for the win and after a strong run from the driver in his sophomore season, the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team would bring home a fourth-place finish when the checkered flag flew.
Blaney would lead the first nine laps of the race before ceding the lead over to eventual race winner Martin Truex, Jr., but Blaney wouldn’t fall far, keeping his Ford inside the top-five throughout the night. By the time the first stage ended on lap 80, Blaney would be scored in third place.
The second stage was much kinder to Blaney and company as he was able to re-take the lead at lap 139 and led 18 of the final 21 laps of Stage 2 to claim his third stage win of the season.
Still holding onto the lead when the third stage began, Blaney would swap the lead back and forth with Truex four times over the next 51 laps before coming out on top on a restart at lap 221 for another 22 laps in front of the field.
However, the numerous cautions throughout the race also gave the other drivers multiple chances to try and take the win away from Blaney.
On a restart at lap 248, Blaney led the field down to the green, with Erik Jones alongside, but Truex would be waiting to pounce behind the two young drivers and made a bold three-wide move between the two to take over the lead for good with 19 laps to go.
Though there were two additional cautions after Truex retook the lead, he would be untouchable as Blaney and the others were all fighting for second place at that point. On the final restart, Blaney would lose second to Brad Keselowski and third to Kevin Harvick over the final two laps to come home fourth.
When the checkered flag flew, Blaney had scored the second most laps led on the night with 83 laps up front.
“It happens I guess,” said Blaney. “We weren’t very good on the long run. I felt that we had a great short run car tonight and I thought that was going to play right into our hands at the end. The 78 got us on that restart somehow. I don’t know. I was super loose there on the last restarts and the 78 got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks. I think that it says a lot about this team to go out and lead some laps and go have a shot and win races.”
While fourth place is not where Blaney and his team would have liked to have finished after such a strong run, Saturday night’s finish was his best since finishing ninth at Auto Club Speedway in late March. The finish marks his second top-five finish of the season and fourth top-10 finish, while also halting a streak of finishes in 33rd or worse in the past three races.
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