Team Penske returned to Victory Lane at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Aug. 22, after a wild race in the Irish Hills. NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney took the lead from William Byron late and used masterful blocking to lock up his second win of the year. This victory marked the first time in Blaney’s career that he captured the checkered flag more than once in a single season.
Blaney lined up on the first row next to William Byron for the final restart with 10 laps remaining. He dove to the bottom after a perfect push from Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota Camry and then took the lead. Byron and Kyle Larson continued to fight for the win, forcing Blaney to move back and forth while blocking them both. He managed to stay ahead of the Hendrick Cars, ultimately winning by 0.077 seconds.
The driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang performed well overall during the first two stages, but he did not spark any comments about potentially reaching Victory Lane. Instead, the conversations primarily focused on Larson, Byron, and Denny Hamlin. Blaney acknowledged this fact during his post-race interview, explaining how he and the No. 12 team had to continue working on the Team Penske Ford until it was ready to win the checkered flag.
Hendrick Motorsports Drivers Continued to Dominate
Early in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, it became apparent that the Hendrick Motorsports drivers would contend for the win. Chase Elliott and Larson started the race on the front row and then continued to battle for the top spot throughout the first stage.
Elliott won the first segment after Larson and Denny Hamlin slowed each other down while battling for position. Austin Dillon raced past them both and began hounding Elliott. The driver of the No. 3 made several pushes to take the top spot but could not fully complete the pass. He ultimately finished third in the stage after Larson inched past him at the start-finish line.
Larson and Elliott continued to battle during Stage 2, finishing third and fourth behind Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell, respectively. Once the final stage began, however, a teammate entered the battle. Byron took over second place behind Larson and continued to jockey for position throughout the final laps.
Regardless of what order they ran, the Hendrick Motorsports drivers continued to showcase their speed throughout the race. Even Alex Bowman quietly contended for another top-10 finish in the No. 48 HMS Chevrolet Camaro. Though Blaney defeated them all with his late 10-lap run to the finish.
A Former Champion Locked Up a Playoff Spot
Prior to the first green flag of the day, Kevin Harvick sparked comments about how he could match Hall of Famer Bill Elliott with four consecutive wins at Michigan International Speedway. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver had won the past three races — one in 2019 and two in 2020 — while driving a dominant stock car.
Harvick did not come close to this mark on Aug. 22. Instead, he dealt with a car that did not handle as he expected. Harvick spent the entire day outside of the top 10 while battling the car but managed to finish 14th after a late run. He also locked up his spot in the playoffs after Blaney’s victory.
While winning was Harvick’s best opportunity to secure his spot, he also sat in the perfect position to receive some help. He entered the race well above the cut line after posting six top-five finishes in the first 24 events on the schedule. All Harvick needed was for a previous winner to take the checkered flag and secure his spot based on points, which is exactly what happened.
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