By Mike Guzman (JOLIET, Ill –) Following a crash in practice Friday, Team Penske development driver Ryan Blaney motored his no. 22 to a second place run behind Erik Jones while looking like the car to beat during the AttiCat 300 during the latter stages of the XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
And while Blaney and Jones, two highly touted prospects, dueled for a majority of the race, Blaney eventually fell back on the final 11-lap dash to the finish while Jones broke through for his second career Series Series win.
“We really didn’t take off very well on restarts,” Blaney said. “We got a lot better that last restart when we had tires and we were able to kind of get out there a little bit… Usually after 15-20 laps we were really good and we could kind of start running Erik (Jones) back down. I just got tight in 1 and 2 and he got a good run and I couldn’t hang with him.”
After a hectic weekend of weather and wrecks, the 21-year-old prospect thanked the strength of his Penske Racing team for allowing him to compete despite a backup car and thrown together parts from his primary.
“They do a great job bringing two good racecars to the track every week no matter if it’s a primary or a backup,” Blaney explained in a press conference after the race. “We weren’t able to use a couple of parts on our primary, we were afraid they were bent.”
After being moved to the rear of the field, Blaney moved into the top 20 within a few laps, and was able to achieve more speed on the bottom line and on the straightaway than those around him. Even while he found himself within the top five at the lap 25 competition caution, Blaney still feels he wasn’t at peak performance this weekend because he wrecked his primary car.
“(The backup) was really similar to our primary, lacked a little bit of overall speed,” Blaney explained. “That just speaks volumes to this team. How well they come to the race track and how prepared they are and how good each car is no matter if it’s the primary or the backup.”
Chris Buescher Survives to Extend Xfinity Points Lead
Chris Buescher entered the AttiCat 300 at Chicagoland Speedway understanding the significance of the Xfinity Series standalone weekend. It was the last race before the championship stretch, with the NASCAR Xfinity Series having its final week break before the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
This time last season, Chase Elliott began his championship ran at Road America, capturing the points lead with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway last year and refusing to look back en route to a title.
“I’m really excited for this stretch,” Buescher, who now holds a 29 point lead over Ty Dillon, explained. “A lot of good race tracks for us, we’ve got some road courses coming up that we had a blast running last year and some of the tracks we’re returning to – Iowa and Dover and Bristol as well. It’s going to be a tough stretch for everybody, last year was tough too but we managed to fare pretty well.”
From the green flag of the rain delayed race, Buescher had his mind on the standings. A lap 79 pit road speeding penalty hampered the no. 60 Roush Racing team, but the 22-year-old driver showed a bit of championship poise coming back for a fifth place finish in a rather disjointed race.
Buescher had climbed back into the top-10 when a lap 151 miscommunication between NASCAR officials and the spotters sent roughly 20 cars to the “tail end of the field” for pitting too soon. Buscher’s spotter Eric Peterson kept his driver out, avoiding the chaos.
“We were able to take some chances today just because of my mess up on pit road. We can’t afford any of those, it was very fortunate we were able to come back like we were with me speeding down pit road.”
A championship moment in a June standalone race is like a baseball team saying a win was important in May, but the fifth place run was nonetheless another notch on what is becoming a stellar season for Buescher in the Xfinity Series. His average finishing position this year is the best since Carl Edwards in Roush’s Xfinity Series program, he has a 4.7 average finishing positon in the last six races, and has gained 32 more points than any other competitor during that stretch.
In the end the roller coaster day may not be reviewed as a championship defining moment at the conclusion of the season, but the value of the points themselves may make all the difference.
“It’s definitely a good points day for us,” Buescher said. “It was a solid day for us. I think we outran most of the fulltime [XFINITY] guys. It’s nice coming off Michigan having a top-five run there. We’ve just got to keep it up and be consistent.”
- Chris Buescher Ldr.
- Ty Dillon -29
- Chase Elliott -43
- Regan Smith -62
- Bubba Wallace -66
- Elliott Sadler -81
- Brian Scott -98
- Brendan Gaughan -109
- Ryan Reed -118
- Daniel Suarez -121
- Jeremy Clements -162
- David Starr -186
- J.J. Yeley -208
- Dakoda Armstrong -209
- Ross Chastain -215
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