Saturday's roundup: Blaney goes worst to first for Xfinity win
Concord, N.C. — Ryan Blaney demonstrated his improving patience and made sure that Kevin Harvick’s misery at Charlotte Motor Speedway continued.
Blaney passed Harvick on a restart with three laps to go and held on to win the Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Blaney went from last to first for his fifth career Xfinity victory. He had qualified third, but was sent to the back of the field to start the race because of unapproved tire changes to his No. 12 Ford.
“I have a lot better patience than I did a couple of years ago,” the 23-year-old Blaney joked when asked about starting at the back of the field. “You learn that as you run a little bit more in NASCAR. When you start in the back or something goes wrong and you lose five or six spots it’s the patience aspect of it.
“We were super patient working back up through the field. It helps when you have a really good car and you know you can be patient.”
Meanwhile, Harvick’s tough luck at Charlotte continued.
He has won 46 career Xfinity Series races, but remains winless at Charlotte.
“I just can’t seem to get to victory lane here,” said Harvick, who will start on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.
Austin Dillon finished third, and Christopher Bell fourth in his Xfinity Series race debut.
Blaney led the middle portion of the race and captured Stage 2. But he got boxed in on pit road with 26 laps remaining and Harvick took over the lead.
“I was pretty upset I didn’t get into my box well and didn’t do a good job of getting angled out,” Blaney said.
Suddenly, it appeared to be Harvick’s race to lose.
His drought at Charlotte might have ended had Darrell Wallace Jr. not hit the outside wall with six laps to go, bringing out the 12th caution of the race and forcing a third restart in the final 30 laps.
Harvick, who was leading at the time, chose to start on the top row on the restart rather than the bottom. He feared that Brad Keselowski, who was on the bottom side of the second row, would help push Blaney to the finish line.
“If you get the 22 (Keselowski) and the 12 (Blaney) you might get beat worse,” Harvick said. “It’s six one way and a half-dozen the other.”
Blaney stayed with Harvick on the restart until the third turn when he took the lead for good.
Blaney joins father Dave as Xfinity Series winners as Charlotte. His father won in 2006.
“It’s pretty cool to win at the same track my father did,” Blaney said.
It was impressive day for Bell, who was the top non-Cup Series finisher.
The rookie spun out on the third lap, but battled back up the field to give himself a chance for a top-five finish.
At Monaco, Spain, Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen took pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, and title contender Lewis Hamilton failed to make the top 10 in a significant blow for Mercedes.
Ferrari has been quick all weekend and championship leader Sebastian Vettel starts on the front row alongside teammate Raikkonen. Vettel left it late but pushed Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas back to third. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen starts fourth.
Hamilton headed into the weekend six points behind Vettel and aiming to move level with Ayrton Senna’s total of 65 pole positions. Instead, the three-time F1 champion could only get the 14th best time.
While Vettel and Raikkonen took 1-2 earlier in final practice, Hamilton was only fifth.
His form failed to improve in qualifying, twice wobbling on the track after losing grip on his car.