Ryan Blaney takes first career win in Nationwide Series

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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.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.