LONG POND, PA. – Ryan Blaney held off Kevin Harvick down the stretch in a thrilling finish and won his first career NASCAR Cup race Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Blaney won for the first time in 68 career starts and made it to Victory Lane, a day after serving as a reporter there for Fox during the Xfinity race.
The 23-year-old Blaney, son of NASCAR driver Dave Blaney and grandson of dirt track star Lou Blaney, delivered for the Wood Brothers, who have won at least one race in each of the past six decades, but none since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in 2011.
“It figures the one race we don’t have radio communication, we end up winning it,” Blaney said. “Maybe we should turn the radio off more often.”
Blaney was exhilarated following a frenetic final 10 laps when he needed to pass a blocking Kyle Busch with about nine laps left. Then he held off a hard-charging Harvick to take the checkered flag.
“I just didn’t want to make a mistake,” Blaney said. “That would have been the worst thing we could do.”
Blaney is part of a bumper crop of blossoming NASCAR talent. Two of those drivers were in the top 10: rookie Erik Jones was third and Chase Elliott was eighth.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was involved in a fiery wreck late in the race that stopped the race for 23 minutes. Johnson’s Chevrolet was in flames and the cockpit billowed with smoke when his car struck the wall. Johnson was running seventh when he appeared to have an issue with his brakes.
He said he was fine and just needed a few minutes to compose himself on the track.
“I can only speculate that I got the brakes too hot and when I went to the brakes they just traveled straight to the floor,” Johnson said.
Jamie McMurray appeared to get caught up in the aftermath of Johnson’s wreck and his No. 1 Chevy also smacked the wall and burst into flames. McMurray, who also had brake issues, quickly climbed out of the car.