19-year-old Ryan Blaney withstood multiple late restarts to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Kentucky 300 tonight at Kentucky, earning his first career NNS triumph by two seconds over another member of NASCAR’s next generation, Austin Dillon.
A string of incidents within the final 40 laps marred the latter stages of the race, but Blaney was able to hold on to the point despite some tense moments. On the next-to-last restart with 14 laps to go, Blaney was side-by-side with Sam Hornish Jr., when the former Indianapolis 500 winner got loose on Blaney’s inside and nearly collected him. Blaney managed to scoot by, while Hornish made a tremendous save and kept going.
Shortly after that, Parker Kligerman was bumped into the tri-oval wall to set up a final restart with nine laps to go – with Blaney and Dillon leading the field down to the green. But Blaney once again stood strong and would go on to not only secure his own inaugural NNS win, but also the 10th win of the year for Penske Racing’s No. 22 NNS squad.
“It’s really tough to hold onto the lead, especially on the outside,” Blaney told ESPN in Victory Lane. “You really have to keep the guy pinned down on the inside, and there were a couple of really hairy situations on the restarts.
“But everyone here at Penske Racing has done an awesome job of giving me a great Discount Tire Ford…I’m really fortunate to drive for these guys, and I’m the fourth different driver to win in this car. That’s very cool. It just shows how good this team is, and I really hope we can get that owner’s championship.”
The Penske NNS No. 22 has earned five checkered flags this year with Brad Keselowski, two apiece with Joey Logano and A.J. Allmendinger, and now one with Ryan, who is the son of current Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney.
Ryan’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, praised the youngster for his performance.
“…I’ve never been more proud of a win,” Bullins said. “That kid’s something else. He did a great job, this Mustang was flawless all night. The guys on pit road did an awesome job and I can’t say enough about the job [Ryan] did.”
Dillon’s second-place finish enabled him to make up some ground in the NNS championship on Hornish, who was able to recover and finish fourth behind third-place driver Matt Crafton. Hornish’s lead is now down to 15 points over Dillon.
Alex Bowman rounded out the Top 5 tonight in the Bluegrass State.