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Ryan Blaney took home first place in a chaotic finish in the Bank of America Roval 400 as the Monster Energy Series playoffs were whittled from 16 drivers down to 12.
Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. crashed in the final moments to clear space for the No. 12 car, which surprisingly became the first to cross the finish line.
FOX: NASCAR @NASCARONFOX
THAT. WAS. INCREDIBLE! Retweet to congratulate Ryan @Blaney on his #ROVAL WIN.
Full results: https://t.co/6LWByjiE2G
#Blaney | #NASCARPlayoffs https://t.co/78elVKLl80
Blaney also earned an automatic spot in the next round, joining Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski as playoff winners as we head into the next stage of the postseason.
Johnson finished in eighth but was eliminated as a result of the collision, along with Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones.
1. Ryan Blaney (12)
2. Jamie McMurray (1)
3. Clint Bowyer (14)
4. Alex Bowman (88)
5. Kurt Busch (41)
6. Chase Elliott (9)
7. AJ Allmendinger (47)
8. Jimmie Johnson (48)
9. Kevin Harvick (4)
10. Joey Logano (22)
Full Results available at NASCAR.com.
Johnson and Truex were battling for a win before the No. 48 car spun out and took out its closest competitor. This finish and the playoff stakes led to quite a reaction from those watching along:
This crash came after another race-changing moment only a few laps earlier.
Keselowski and Kyle Larson were battling for the lead throughout most of the third stage until a restart with eight laps remaining. The leaders piled into the wall, causing a red flag while Keselowski, Busch and more were forced to the garage:
The red flag is out after this massive pileup in Turn 1!
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
Kyle Busch’s explanation for everyone missing the corner: “I guess all of us are just stupid.”
Larson was heavily damaged but remained on the track as he tried to pick up points. This ended up making a major difference, as he and Aric Almirola advanced on a tiebreaker.
Blaney survived both major incidents and came through with the shocking win.
Sunday’s race was the first Cup event on the road course in Charlotte, North Carolina, known as the Roval, and the uncertainty kept things interesting from the first lap.
Kurt Busch began on the pole, but it was Larson who took charge early on, and he turned that into a Stage 1 victory, the first for anyone on this course:
NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC
History made in Charlotte, as Kyle Larson becomes the first Cup driver to win a stage at the ROVAL presented by @Kroger #ClickList! https://t.co/aPnaA1jUI4
Blaney then made a big move in Stage 2 to take some key points as he tried to advance to the next stage:
Important Stage 2 win for #Blaney as he fights for his #NASCARPlayoffs life.
Presented by @FedEx https://t.co/gE6YW9P43o
Heading into the final stage, the focus was as much on the cut line for the playoffs as it was the leaders in the race. A win clinched a spot in the next round, but everyone else at the bottom of the standings knew every point mattered.
This was bad news for Austin Dillon, who crashed with 45 laps to go to knock him out and alter the race:
NBC Sports @NBCSports
Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon has hit the wall AGAIN. With him below the cut line, it’s likely the end of his #NASCARPlayoffs run. #AD3 https://t.co/OdtM0t0lEY
Bob Pockrass @bobpockrass
Austin Dillon hits the wall, he’s likely done for the day. he won’t make the second round. … Jones and Hamlin face a must-win (Hamlin fifth, Jones seventh). … likely come down to Blaney, Bowyer johnson, Bowman for the final 2-3 spots.
Blaney, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer then grouped together on the course, along with in the standings, in the final few laps with only a handful of points separating the trio looking for one spot in the next round.
Each of these drivers ended up advancing as the multiple wrecks opened things up for those who remained on the track.
The drama should only pick up in the upcoming week as we head into the second stage of the playoffs. Drivers will try to clinch a spot in the third stage with a win next Sunday at the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway.