Ryan Blaney takes advantage of last restart at Michigan for NASCAR Cup Series win

Ryan Blaney, left, beats William Byron at the finish line to win the NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in Brooklyn, Mich. (AP photo)


AP Sports Writer

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Ryan Blaney needed a push to pass William Byron on Sunday.

Kyle Busch provided the boost.

With Busch’s help, Blaney took the lead on the final restart, then bobbed and weaved his way around Michigan International Speedway to beat Byron by 0.077 seconds. It was the narrowest victory margin in a Cup race at this track since electronic scoring began.

“I wouldn’t say we had the best car,” Blaney said. “We got pretty good, to a point where I thought we could run fourth or fifth and it just worked out to where he could give us a push and it just worked out.”

Blaney won for the second time this season and sixth overall, capping a big weekend for Team Penske, which won Saturday’s IndyCar race in suburban St. Louis and then this victory, not far from Roger Penske’s Detroit roots. Ford also has won seven straight at Michigan.

This one was unexpected.

With no practice and no qualifying race on a speedway race organizers added resin to the top of the track, Blaney started third and quickly found himself off the pace of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliot, Larson and Byron.

Instead, Blaney kept his cool in the heat as his crew fine-tuned the No. 12 Ford. Blaney took care of the rest, methodically working way toward the front.

But Elliott lost track position after stalling in the pits and two late yellows bunched the field together, suddenly putting Blaney in the top five.

When the top three cars took the outside lane on the final restart, Blaney chose the inside lane next to Byron and in front of Busch.

His decision — and Busch’s push — changed the complexion of the race.

“It was fun, kind of like a superspeedway race,” Byron said. “Unfortunately, he ran the bottom. You can only block so many lanes and I tried to block the top and cost myself the lead.”

Larson and Byron took turns over the final seven laps trying to give one another a shot to pass Blaney. Nothing worked.

“Just made a couple of bad moves, I guess,” Larson said. “A little too impatient behind the No. 12 and allowed William to get by me and then I was hoping they would get racing and I could get side-drafting.”

And Blaney sped across the finish line barely ahead of Byron.

“Really the push was the whole thing,” Blaney said. “So thanks, Kyle.”

Blaney also ended Kevin Harvick’s winning streak at Michigan at three. But the consolation prize wasn’t bad — clinching the 15th spot in the 16-car playoff that begins in two weeks.

Elliott beat Larson to the finish line to win the first stage, and Busch took the second stage over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell.