Ryan Blaney took the lead on a restart in overtime and from there went on to win Saturday night’s crash-filled Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
The victory was the second consecutive for Blaney as the Team Penske driver won a week ago at Michigan International Speedway.
He was in the lead on the final lap of OT when a big wreck exploded behind him, handing him the victory.
Chris Buescher, who restarted in OT with the lead and needed a victory to earn a berth in the 16-driver, 10-race playoffs, finished second. Instead, Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing secured the final berth in the playoffs, finishing sixth.
The playoffs begin next weekend at Darlington Raceway.
Third was Bubba Wallace with the 23XI team. It was Wallace and team’s best finish of the season.
Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five.
When he was involved in a big wreck with 15 laps to go – a wreck which resulted in smoke billowing out of his car – Reddick appeared to be headed for the garage and doomed in his bid to earn the final berth.
But during the resulting caution, his RCR team went to work, mopped up the source of the smoke and sent Reddick back out on to the track for the final 10 laps. The car held together, allowing Reddick to grab the final berth.
His teammate, Austin Dillon, who started 17th in points – 25 behind Reddick – ran into a series of problems late in the race. He was issued a penalty with just under 20 laps to go and then had electrical system problems which required another pit stop to change his battery.
Hopes for Dillon died when he was involved on the final-lap wreck while running near the front.
Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports finished 21st to claim the regular season championship.
Thirteen drivers started the race who needed to win to get in. None could.
The starting field for the playoffs will consist of Larson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola and Reddick.
Pole-sitter and points leader Larson was sent to the rear of the field for the start of the race after multiple pre-race inspection failures. Also sent to the rear were Kaz Grala, Joey Gase, McDowell and Anthony Alfredo.
McDowell, who was the winner of the Daytona 500 at DIS in February and as a result is locked into the playoffs, blew an engine 24 laps in.
“I felt like it was really racy, McDowell said of his car. “I was being pretty conservative and then under the caution I just lost oil pressure.”
–Field Level Media