Blaney maintains ‘momentum,’ wins at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ryan Blaney won for the second consecutive week when the race Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway ended under caution in overtime with a typical fiery finish.

Tyler Reddick took the 16th and final spot in the playoffs with a seventh-place finish. Reddick needed only to beat Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon and hope for a repeat winner to earn his first playoff berth.

Reddick and Dillon were both in contention to make a desperate last-gasp push for the win in the two-lap overtime sprint to the finish. But Blaney, who was second on the restart, cleared traffic with a push from Corey LaJoie and was well ahead of the pack when a crash ended the race.

Daniel Suarez, one of 10 drivers in the front pack trying to win the race to earn the automatic playoff berth, turned Kevin Harvick to trigger the multicar crash.

Blaney, the winner in Michigan last week, heads into next week’s playoff opener at Darlington Raceway with three victories this season in his Team Penske Ford.

“Yeah, we’ve got good momentum,” Blaney said. “We’d like to make it three in a row, we’ll see.”

The regular-season finale had fairly low stakes in that 15 of the 16 playoff slots were claimed before the start of the race. It meant only a first-time race winner could edge Reddick or Dillon for the final spot.

The only other competition was for the regular-season title, which went to Kyle Larson, a five-time winner this season. The race for the regular-season championship and its playoff points was between Larson and Denny Hamlin, who entered Daytona trailing Larson by 28 points.

Hamlin held the regular-season lead for 22 weeks until Larson claimed it two races ago at Indianapolis.

Olympic bronze medalist Noah Lyles served as the race’s grand marshal and demanded more from the crowd.

Lyles, the 200-meter favorite who settled for third in Tokyo, asked fans for a louder response after his first attempt drew a lackluster effort.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said before giving the command for drivers to start their engines.

Lyles was wearing his medal before the race and mingling with driver Bubba Wallace on the grid.

The playoffs begin next Sunday at Darlington Raceway, which recently repaved a section in Turn 2 that could change the way the track races. Kevin Harvick is the defending race winner and Martin Truex Jr. won at the South Carolina track in May.

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