Dover, Del. — With a checkered flag missing and no highlight reel burnout to be found, Ryan Blaney might at least want to keep the race trophy as a keepsake to prove he won at Dover.
Blaney crashed the Xfinity Series playoffs and the Cup regular dominated Saturday at Dover International Speedway.
“It’s really hard to get a car like that,” he said.
NASCAR imposed limits this season on how many times the elite Cup drivers can race in NASCAR’s second-tier series. But no rule could stop Blaney from reaching victory lane. Blaney made the Cup playoffs with a win at Pocono and played spoiler at Dover in the second race of the Xfinity playoffs.
Blaney, a social media darling in NASCAR, took his checkered flag and slipped it through a fence to give to a young fan. Blaney recalled he was once that same excited kid when he tagged along at the track as the son of former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney and grandson of dirt track star Lou Blaney.
“He seemed really pumped up to be at the race,” Blaney said. “There was a lot of kids here today , which is really cool. I kind of saw a little bit of myself. I was a little kid coming here and watching races. Anything we can to do to try to keep them coming back and show them a pretty great experience at the track. He looked like he wanted it and he was pretty happy when he got it.”
Almost as happy as Blaney was to win it.
Blaney, who usually gives a checkered flag to a team member, also skipped the traditional winner’s burnout.
“It’s not really my thing,” he said.
Xfinity playoff drivers took the second through six spots and nine of the top 11. Justin Allgaier was second, followed by William Byron, Daniel Hemric and Brennan Poole.
The 23-year-old Blaney won for the second time in nine Xfinity races driving the No. 22 Ford for team owner Roger Penske. He led 136 of 200 laps and won his sixth career Xfinity race.
Allgaier leads the standings by three points over JR Motorsports teammate Byron. The series moves to Charlotte Motor Speedway where the field of 12 drivers will be cut to eight.
Blaney will drive a third entry for Team Penske in NASCAR’s top Cup series next year. Blaney will drive the No. 12 Ford and join Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski (Rohester Hills) in team owner Roger Penske’s NASCAR lineup. Blaney was signed to Penske in 2012 and farmed out to race for Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney won his first career NASCAR Cup race this season for the Wood brothers at Pocono .
Blaney starts 11th in Sunday’s Cup race at Dover.
NASCAR Truck Series
At Las Vegas, Ben Rhodes earned his first career Truck Series victory by holding off Christopher Bell.
Rhodes earned an automatic berth into the second round of the playoffs with the win. Bell was the winner a week ago at New Hampshire.
Rhodes was the winner of the second stage but didn’t get a chance to race for the win until John Hunter Nemechek ran out of fuel under caution with 14 laps remaining. He headed to pit road from the lead for a disastrous stop — Nemechek stalled leaving pit road, and his crew had to push his truck back to his pit stall before Nemechek could pull away.
Although Nemechek stayed on the lead lap, he was 10th on the restart with seven laps remaining.
It set up a frantic dash to the finish, and Rhodes had to use a late block on Bell to save the victory.
Bell finished second and was followed by Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Kaz Grala — all championship contenders.
At Sepang, Malaysia, Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, while title rival Sebastian Vettel’s miserable luck continued as he quit early into the session after losing power on a straight.
Having struggled in practice, Mercedes driver Hamilton found the pace he needed to take the 70th pole of his career. Vettel will start from last.
There were heads in hands in the Ferrari garage as Vettel came back in the first part of qualifying. At least Kimi Raikkonen saved face, qualifying second and almost beating Hamilton’s time. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified third on his 20th birthday.
Ferrari has little to celebrate.
Two weeks ago, Vettel wasted pole in Singapore when he caused a first-turn crash that took out Raikkonen, Verstappen and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso with him.
It handed Hamilton the championship initiative, extending his lead to 28 points. Another strong performance Sunday could see Hamilton take a giant stride toward a fourth F1 title with five races left after Malaysia.