CONCORD, North Carolina — Ryan Blaney held off William Byron won the rescheduled Coca-Cola 600 oat Charlotte Speedway, putting an end to his NASCAR race winless streak.
Josef Newgarden won a record-extending 19th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday for Team Penske. Like Newgarden, Blaney jumped out of his car and climbed into the crowd to celebrate the win with fans.
“I only did it because Josef did it,” Blaney said according to AP. “I was pretty fired up. I don’t get that excited very often, but I was super pumped. I am going to go in the stands like Josef did and have some human contact.”
A few moments later, Blaney tried to hold back tears with the weight of 59-race winless streak lifted from his shoulders.
“You start to get to feel like you can´t win anymore,” Blaney said. “We hadn´t won in awhile and that can get hard. I want to thank the 12 (team) for believing in me.”
Blaney took the lead from Byron on a restart and led the final 26 laps to win his first Cup Series race since the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona in August of 2021.
Byron finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.
Truex said Blaney’s emotions are understandable.
“He’s under a lot of pressure to perform,” Truex said. “They’ve won a lot of races since his last race. I’m sure he questioned himself through some point during that streak that he was on.
“He’s had many opportunities to win and they’ve slipped away. Those are the hardest to think about so he’s probably thinking, `we finally did it.´”
It is the first time Team owner Roger Penske has swept the Indianapolis-Charlotte doubleheader.
“The pressure was on us to try to sweep the weekend,” said Blaney, who said he texted Newgarden after the Indy 500 win. “So that was the goal. Fortunately we executed well enough to get it done.”
Blaney’s win came just days before Penske hosts a weekend of racing on the downtown streets of Detroit. The return of racing in downtown Detroit is Penske´s gift to the city he calls home. Then, the 86-year-old heads to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the very few events he´s yet to win.
The 5 1/2-hour race included five wrecks in the final 50 laps, including one with 26 to go when last week’s All-Star race winner Kyle Larson spun and took out defending Cup champion Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell.
Blaney had passed Byron on the previous restart, and then got the jump on him again on the final restart and ran away with the checkered flag.
Defending race champion Denny Hamlin was left fuming after his day ended with a wreck on lap 186, prompting him to call for NASCAR to suspend its most popular driver Chase Elliott.
Hamlin claimed the Hendrick Motorsports driver intentionally wrecked him by hooking his right rear bumper following a dust-up earlier in the race.
“It´s a tantrum and he shouldn´t be racing next week,” Hamlin said of Elliott. “Right rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I don´t care.”