Blaney wins Daytona qualifying race
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.
Roger Penske has a car capable of winning the Daytona 500.
Maybe even three of them.
Penske again went 1-2 at Daytona International Speedway for its second sweep of Speedweeks. This time, Ryan Blaney went to victory lane after winning the first of two Thursday night qualifying races that are used to set the Daytona 500 field.
Chase Elliott won the second race in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to put a temporary halt on the Team Penske dominance.
Joey Logano finished second to Penske teammate Blaney for the Ford sweep in the first race. Kevin Harvick was second to Elliott in the second race and Harvick was also in a Ford — proving the automaker has the same speed it did a year ago when it swept all four restrictor-plate races.
“There’s no doubt we have the speed,” Harvick said of the Ford camp.
Logano has finished second now twice in Speedweeks. He was beaten last week by teammate Brad Keselowski in an all-star race that opened activity at Daytona International Speedway.
Keselowski is the Las Vegas favorite to win Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500, but he wrecked with two laps remaining in the qualifier and he’ll need a backup for the main event.
No matter, it seemed, because the Penske cars so far have the field covered.
“There’s no question, we’re going to get it done,” Logano said about the Penske effort.
The three Penske drivers dominated the all-star race and were at the front of the field for the entire Thursday night race. Blaney won it in overtime after Keselowski’s accident brought out the caution.
What was interesting was that Blaney did it with a pass that didn’t work last week. When he tried to pass Keselowski in the all-star race, he pulled out of traffic and didn’t get the help he needed to complete the move. This time he was able to get past leader Logano, then the Keselowski accident brought out the caution.
“I didn’t make a good move and I kind of lost that [all-star] race,” said Blaney, the son of Hartford native former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney. “I learned a little bit and I thought about that forever. I thought we learned a little bit from our mistakes. Hopefully we can make it another one here on Sunday. That would be the one that counts.”
On the restart in overtime, Blaney got a huge push from best friend Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and pulled away for the win.
“I saw [he] was third and I’d figure he’d give me a good push,” Blaney said.
Wallace finished third and was congratulated with a huge hug from team owner Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion.
Jimmie Johnson was in his second accident of Speedweeks. The seven-time NASCAR champion dropped out of line just minutes after his race began with an apparent tire problem, and his car took an unexpected hard right into traffic. The contact wrecked Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola, and sent Johnson and Almirola to backup cars. He also wrecked on Sunday in an all-star exhibition race.