Blaney Xfinity champion: Steamrolls the field at Monster Mile

#22 Ryan Blaney driving the Fitzgerald Ford won the Xfinity 32nd Annual Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 Race, Saturday at Dover International Speedway.
Special to the Delaware State News / Chuck Snyder

DOVER — Horsepower, handling and a knack for navigating the high banks of Dover International Speedway helped Ryan Blaney roll over his competition.

None of the 39 other drivers racing around Dover appeared to stand a chance in the Drive Sober 200 Xfinity Series race on a cloud-covered – then sunny – cool Saturday afternoon.
Blaney, who became the seventh different winner in the last seven Xfinity races at the “Monster Mile,” was simply in the zone.

Blaney actually said capturing his sixth career Xfinity Series race wasn’t quite as easy as it might have looked.

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Ryan Blaney crosses the finish line to win the Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“It’s really hard to get a car like that and to be honest we didn’t have it in the first run,” said Blaney, a regular in the Monster Energy Series. “We were a little bit off on the first run. We made some great changes after the first stage to get it better to where it needs to be. We actually got it better for the last run.

“I think this team does a great job with that, of maybe not firing off the greatest, but they know how to work on it and make it better throughout the race. As a driver, that’s all you can ask for.”

Blaney celebrated his victory old-school style – with no burnout. He turned his No. 22 Fitzgerald Ford around on the race track, dropped his window net down and waved to the fans along the frontstretch.

He then presented his newly received checkered flag to a young race fan through the safety fence, providing the youngster with one memorable souvenir.

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Ryan Sieg’s team performs a pit stop during the Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“Anything we can do to try to keep the young race fans coming back and watching the races,” Blaney said. “That’s important.”

Blaney, a 23-year-old from High Point, North Carolina, had the dominant car throughout the final two stages of the race. He led two times for a total of 136 laps, including the final 77 circuits, around Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval.

Justin Allgaier finished in second place, 4.852 seconds behind Blaney, and was followed by William Byron, Daniel Hemric and Brennan Poole.

Allgaier said he just couldn’t chase down Blaney on the long green flag runs after the driver was able to pull away to considerable leads following restarts.

“I think all in all our day was good,” Allgaier said. “We just needed a little bit of short-run speed. We fired off a little slower than I would have liked. I was able to maintain second and stay ahead of William (Byron).

Elliot Sadler’s pit crew works on his car Saturday at Dover International Speedway during the Xfinity Race.
Special to the Delaware State News / Chuck Snyder

“That was kind of the difference-maker. We knew the long run was going to be our strength. We’ll just keep digging.”

Byron won the pole position for the race earlier on Saturday by turning a lap of 23.046 seconds (156.209 mph) around the speedway.

He held onto the top spot during the entire 60 laps of the first stage, however, Blaney’s pit crew put him back on the race track in first place with a quick stop during the first round of pit stops.

Blaney followed Byron’s playbook as he led all of the second stage’s 60 laps, setting up one final showdown in which he dominated.

“We needed a couple of restarts on the outside, but overall it was a really good day for us, just a solid day that we needed,” Byron said. “It was just kind of hard to pass with it being cold (outside) and one (racing) groove that was on the bottom (of the track).

“I felt if we could have got out front we would have been really good, but overall it was a really strong day.”

The race was slowed by three caution periods during the first 29 laps until the race settled down and Blaney checked out.

Cars start the race at the Xfinity Use Your Melon. Driver Sober 200 Saturday at Dover International Speedway.
Special to the Delaware State News / Chuck Snyder

Blaney finished second to Kyle Larson in the Xfinity race at Dover in the spring but was able to improve by one position to win his first Monster Trophy.

He gets a chance to try to win another one today.

Blaney says he learned a lot Saturday that he can apply to his No. 21 Wood Brothers car in today’s Apache Warrior 400 Monster Energy Series race at Dover.

“It’s great whenever we can get long runs in the Xfinity races because the Cup races usually have them,” Blaney said. “We learned a lot for (today) and hopefully we can have as solid of a run as we had (Saturday).”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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