Ryan Blaney wins 1st career NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway

Ryan Blaney wins 1st career NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway
Posted at 7:55 PM, Jun 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-11 19:55:43-04
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) -- 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.
The 23-year-old Blaney, a third generation driver, won for the first time in 68 career starts and made it to victory lane for the second straight day. He was a reporter for Fox during the Xfinity race and was stationed in victory lane.
Blaney got there this time in the No. 21 Ford and without a working team radio. Blaney drives for the Wood Brothers, one of the most storied teams in NASCAR. The Wood Brothers have won at least one race in each of the last six decades, but none since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in 2011.
The Wood Brothers won for the 99th time.
Now they can add Blaney to the list. He's the 18th driver to win a Cup race with the Wood Brothers.
"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 is part of a bumper crop of blossoming young talent that his hit NASCAR over the last couple of years. Two of those drivers were in the top 10: rookie Erik Jones was third and Chase Elliott was eighth.
Darrell Wallace Jr. finished a lap down in 26th in the first start by a black driver in the Cup series since 2006. He felt ill after the race and needed to go to the medical center. Wallace said he was embarrassed, but fine.
"It was really cool, a really fun day," he said.
Blaney interviewed Xfinity winner Brad Keselowski in victory lane on Saturday as part of an all-driver broadcast by Fox. Keselowski finished fifth on Sunday and returned the favor by sticking around victory lane and interviewed Blaney.
"What was going through your mind? You're in victory lane, man!" Keselowski said.
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 told Keselowski. "That would have been the worst thing we could do."
He was near flawless over those final 10 laps.
"He'll probably want to still go party tonight," Wallace said.
Other items of note at Pocono:
   Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson sat on the track to catch his breath following a fiery wreck late in the race. He said he was fine following the scary wreck that stopped the race for 23 minutes. Johnson's No. 48 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 that shot the car up the track and into the wall.
   Last week at Dover, Johnson moved into a tie for sixth on NASCAR's list with 83 career wins. He said he was fine and just needed a few minutes to compose himself on the track before he left for the medical center.
   "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. "I didn't even have a pedal to push on. At that point, I threw it in third gear and I was just trying to slow it down."
   Johnson, who had a form of skin cancer cut out of his right shoulder this week, diffused the wreck with humor.
   "I just want to let my wife and kids and my mom know that I'm OK and I will go change my underwear and get ready to go home," he 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.
   "I just started spinning and didn't have any brakes," he said. "It was really weird that we kind of both had the same thing happen at the same point on the racetrack, but fortunately, we are both OK."
   Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless season stretched into Pocono when he was forced out of the race because of mechanical issues. Earnhardt, who swept Pocono in 2015, was already forced to start at the rear of the field. He said the problem in the No. 88 Chevrolet was shifting issues; he tried to go from third to fourth gear but the car went to second.
   "We don't really have an answer to it other than me just having to pay more attention, but I mean I've been doing this all my life and this isn't a common issue, but it has been this weekend," he said.
   Earnhardt, who will retire at the end of the season, has finished 30th or worse six times this season.