While the other two national levels of NASCAR — the Sprint Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series — were off racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, the Xfinity Series traveled to Sparta, Ky., for Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway. With the Sprint Cup stars not in attendance, Xfinity Series regulars were given a better chance to shine at Kentucky, with Ryan Blaney leading the way by leading 81 laps of the 200-lap race on his way to victory lane.
“It was really big to get back in victory lane this week (after having a bad race the previous weekend,” Blaney said.
The race completed a sweep for Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford team at Kentucky Speedway, adding to Brad Keselowski’s win in Sparta from behind the wheel of the No. 22 when the Xfinity Series last visited Kentucky Speedway earlier this season.
Series championship contender Ty Dillon was up front when the 10th and final yellow flag waved in the caution-filled event, sending the race slightly into overtime with a green-white-checker restart. Blaney was able to retake the lead on the final restart and drive on to the win, leaving runner-up honors for Dillon.
“First of all, we’re happy tonight with our finish,” Dillon said. “Earlier this season, we weren’t fortunate enough to even be in this position. But we made changes and we’re really hitting our stride. This one really hurts. It hurts for my team, knowing that we were that close to winning this thing. But we’ve got to look at today as a positive. It was a good points day. We’re trending in the right direction.”
After the race, Blaney credited Regan Smith with a push to the lead and eventual win. “The last restart was just a matter of who could get a really good push. The 7 (Smith) gave us a really good push,” Blaney said.
Daniel Suarez started the race on the pole but lost the lead to Brian Scott before the first yellow flag waved on lap two. Suarez’s night went from bad to worse with a hole in his radiator and then a transmission issue. Meanwhile, Richard Childress Racing teammates Brian Scott and Dillon each led significant laps early before Blaney took his first lead of the race around lap 55.
After a green-flag cycle of pit stops was interrupted by a caution just before the halfway point of the race, Erik Jones wound up as the race leader. His lead was short-lived, but he led additional laps in the second half of the race after starting in the back after missing qualifying earlier in the day because he was in New Hampshire competing in the Truck Series race. An extra pit stop in the final 20 laps, though, shuffled Jones to the back of the top-10, though, and he wound up finishing eighth. The yellow flag with 20 laps to go that saw Jones hit pit road came as a result of an on-track incident for series veteran Eric McClure. After the incident, McClure was transported to a local hospital.
“I guess a little disappointed the way we ran in both races,” Jones said. “I wish it would’ve gone little bit better. We had really good speed here in the Monster Energy Camry, just didn’t work out at the end of the day. Wish we could’ve got the finish that I thought we deserved. I thought we were a second or third-place car, but it just didn’t work out.”
Unlike Jones, Scott wound up outside the top-10 at the checkered flag, finishing 13th after an incident with Darrell Wallace Jr. on a late-race restart. Wallace was able to finish inside the top-10 in ninth, Other drivers finishing in the top-10 include JR Motorsports teammates Smith and Chase Elliott in third and fourth, Brandon Jones in fifth, Brendan Gaughan sixth, and Chris Buescher in seventh. Matt Tifft rounded out the top-10 in his Xfinity Series debut.