Ryan Blaney won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday, May 29, and he captured one of the Crown Jewels. He also set a career-first mark by winning after leading more than 100 laps in a single race.
Blaney entered Memorial Day weekend with seven career wins in the NASCAR Cup Series. The most laps he had ever led before winning was 63 at Talladega Superspeedway in 2020. His previous best mark for the most laps led in a winning effort was 35 at Talladega in 2019.
Blaney shattered this mark during the Crown Jewel race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He led a race-high 163 laps in the No. 12 Ford Mustang, and he was the only driver to top 100. Runner-up William Byron was next with 91 laps led in the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro.
“It’s just nice that things go the way you hope they go,” Blaney said after the race. “And everything’s different, right? There’s plenty of times where drivers have had the fastest car and it just doesn’t work out for them. I think that’s happened to us. That’s happened to every driver in the field. Sometimes you don’t have the fastest car, and you win the race just by circumstances. So that happens to everybody.
“But it’s nice to run up front all race, lead a bunch of laps, have one of the most — have one of the quickest cars out there, top two or three cars out there, and then pull it off. That’s always super cool. Yeah, definitely feels good.”
Blaney Has Several Near-Misses in His Career
Blaney, who snapped a 59-race winless streak at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is no stranger to spending time at the front of the pack. Prior to the 2023 Coca-Cola 600, he had led 100 or more laps in 11 races spanning a variety of tracks.
The most laps Blaney had led without winning was 158 at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2019. He started third overall in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, and he finished fourth overall.
Blaney’s best finish after leading more than 100 laps was second overall at Phoenix Raceway during the 2022 season finale. His teammate, Joey Logano, finished first and won the Cup Series championship.
The home race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a different matter entirely. Blaney secured bonus points in the first two stages, won the third stage, and then he held off Byron on several restarts due to the number of cautions in the final stage.
Blaney then built up a lead of more than one second at an intermediate track, a style where the Ford Performance drivers have struggled in 2023, and he crossed the finish line first to score a major win.
Blaney Made a Move in the Championship Standings
The win was significant for Blaney and Team Penske. It was his first win since August 28, 2021, the day that he won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This win also secured a spot in the playoffs.
Almost as important as the playoff spot is the move in the championship standings. Blaney is second behind Ross Chastain, but he is only one point back after the driver of the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro finished 22nd overall in a largely forgettable night. Byron is three points back of Blaney.
The Team Penske driver will now move toward a crucial point of the season. He will try to continue adding points after securing his spot in the playoffs, and he will try to overtake Chastain. If Blaney can build on the momentum of his Coca-Cola 600 win, he could push for the first regular-season championship of his career.