As the NASCAR Cup Series nears the end of its regular season, the urgency to secure a race win by any means necessary has been ramping up with each passing week. A field of 16 drivers will earn a place in the Cup Series Playoffs, with the spots given to race winners first, followed by the highest-placed non-winners in points standings receiving the remaining spots. With 14 different race winners this season so far, only two spots are left to advance solely on points.
Yesterday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard wasn’t the cleanest affair between those drivers vying for a playoff spot on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Ryan Blaney, the highest-placed driver in points without a win, missed out on a chance to punch his ticket to the playoffs due to contact with another driver. Frustrated by the missed opportunity, Blaney retaliated after the race ended.
On a restart with three laps to go, wins and points leader Chase Elliott spun out after Blaney made contact with him. The inciting incident sparked a cascading series of bumps, spins and off-track excursions that ended with Austin Dillon beaching his No. 3 RCR Chevy Camaro. That, though, wasn’t the incident that pushed Blaney over the edge. The race would have one final restart in overtime.
Blaney would line up fourth for the final restart as in the restart before. Going through the first corner, he would be essentially pinned in the middle of a three-wide for second place. AJ Allmendinger, the driver to Blaney’s left, ran off the track and clipped Blaney as he rejoined the racing surface. The no. 16 Kaulig Racing Camaro turned Blaney. He had nowhere to go as Daniel Suárez in the No. 99 Trackhouse Camaro was pinned to his right side.
The chaos in the first corner allowed Tyler Reddick in the No. 8 RCR Camaro to only have to worry about Suárez’s teammate Ross Chastain on his way to victory lane. Chastain would later be penalized for using an escape road to cut the first corner entirely and get to the front of the field. The race might have ended, but Blaney was still furious and took matters into his own hands. During the cool-down lap, he spun out Suárez in retaliation for what happened to him.
Ryan Blaney said Racer:
“That was a case of just getting wrecked; that’s all people do at the end of these things. [They] just dive in there and [expletive] wreck you. And I don’t know who shoved who [and] I don’t care.
“The tires didn’t matter at the end. We restarted [in the] top three both times and tires don’t really matter. It’s just a matter of getting through on the restart, but apparently that’s a hard thing to ask because people just run over each other.”
Ryan Blaney has four more races to guarantee himself a place in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. However, if there are more than 16 race winners at the end of the regular season, at least one race winner will miss the playoffs. The single-race winners would be ranked by points, and those below the 16th place cutoff would not be included in the playoff field.