Blaney Follows in Father’s Footsteps as He Wins Charlotte Xfinity Race

Lucy Atkinson

We were back at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the second week in a row for another instalment of racing. This time though, it was to mark the end of a break for Xfinity, and drivers were stepping into their cars in hot temperatures on a slick track. Xfinity Series regular Justin Allgaier was on the pole for this NASCAR Xfinity Series Hisense 4K TV 300 race, in his 5th ever career pole. Cars were going to be feisty, drivers were going to be fiery and cautions would happen aplenty in this tumultuous race.


Lap 1 of 200 saw Austin Dillon assume the lead over Allgaier very briefly. It then turned out that Dillon would have to be sent to the rear with a penalty because he had reached the start line before Allgaier. Only 1 lap later and the caution was out for Bell who span off turn four when Reed gave him no space to move into the groove. He was very lucky that his splitter wasn’t damaged after hitting the grass.

Back to green on lap 8 and Allgaier took the inside line, before Harvick assumed 1st from the outside. Behind them in 6th, team mates Poole and Reddick made some contact going into the corner but no further incident occurred. With 29 laps to go though, the caution came out for Conley who span out on turn 4. It was back to green very briefly before a 3rd caution came out again.

The race restarted with 20 laps to go in Stage 1 and Harvick took the outside line once again. He stormed ahead of Hamlin and rookie – Custer. Things were getting excitable behind him when cars nearly went three wide and ran closely in a pack. Keselowski and Austin Dillon were doing extremely well to claw back lost ground after rear starts. They were now in 12th and 13th, and continuing to move up the field.

Series regulars Harvick and Hamlin might still have been leading with 14 to go, but it was also good to see the young guys keeping up with the veterans in the top 10 too. In 3rd, Custer in particular was doing an amazing job of showing off his talent as this rookie stayed close behind. Austin Dillon also barged his way into the top 10 with 8 laps to go in a display of impatience and aggression. 4 laps later and Keselowski had followed suit, also barging into the top 10. The Stage ended with a dominating Harvick winning ahead of Hamlin, Custer, Blaney, Poole, Reddick, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Keselowski and Reed in the top 10.

Back to green on lap 53 of 200 for the start of Stage 2, and Hamlin stormed ahead. Half a lap later and Blaney got a great run and flew by Hamlin, snagging 1st ahead of Hamlin and Austin Dillon. Further back and there were loads of fraught battles going on for 6th and 10th as warm temperatures got these drivers hot under the collar. With 19 laps to go, Darrell Wallace Jr was racing for his 6th position from Ty Dillon. He blocked Dillon with 18 laps to go and claimed his spot. With 14 laps to go, it was a close call for Reddick who received contact from behind, got a little loose and nearly ended up in the wall. It was an excellent save by Reddick. The Stage ended with Blaney up the front after starting at the back, ahead of Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Harvick, Custer, Wallace Jr, Reed, Ty Dillon, Keselowski and Poole in the top 10.

Going green with 102 laps to go and Stage 3 was underway. Blaney reassumed his lead and Wallace Jr made it three wide as he set his sights on the top, taking the 3rd and 2nd positions in quick succession. Harvick was just behind him in 3rd. With 97 laps to go, the 6th caution of the day came out for Gallagher who span out after a bit of contact to his right rear. The race restarted with Blaney choosing the outside lane with 92 to go. Wallace Jr took the lead after half a lap. He had a decent restart but just seemed to gather more momentum in this evidently very quick car. He was ahead of Blaney and Hamlin.

Wallace Jr led 3 laps before Blaney took 1st back with 88 to go. A few laps later, Blaney had managed to drum up a decent lead of nearly 1 second ahead of Wallace Jr and Hamlin. Shortly after, Harvick moved in for the kill and swiped the 3rd spot off Hamlin. Harvick’s sights were now firmly on Wallace Jr and there was a score to settle in Harvick’s eyes, after their tussle at the beginning of this Stage. He was closing the gap on Wallace Jr and making his presence well and truly known.

With 77 to go though, Brandon Jones span out from just inside the top 20. He’d been struggling throughout the race and he finally lost control when his car slipped from beneath him. It was a split field as some drivers – including the leaders – used this caution to pit, and others took a chance and stayed out on the track. Wallace Jr was 3rd in the race off pit road, and would restart the race behind Blaney and Harvick. The race was back on with 71 laps to go and Blaney and Harvick were racing hard for 1st as Blaney struggled to shake Harvick off his tail. He managed to 1 lap later, and Wallace Jr was desperately trying to cling on to 3rd whilst Austin Dillon was making a daring attempt to steal it off him. Wallace Jr managed to keep hold of 3rd and Dillon got caught up racing with Custer for 4th instead.

With 45 laps to go, Blaney had been leading for 98 laps this race. He was running 1 second ahead of Harvick and Austin Dillon. There were 42 laps to go, and just as drivers were beginning to come up with a pit strategy – a caution came out when Hamlin took the air off Poole, and sent Poole up into the wall. Provided with an opportunity, most drivers took to pit road for one final stop. Austin Dillon won the race off pit road and would restart the race at the front, ahead of Harvick. Wallace Jr had a tough stop and was restarting outside the top 10.

With 37 to go, Austin took the outside lane and got a good push ahead and into the lead ahead of Harvick and Blaney. Further back and there was three-wide going on as the pack raced messily for positions. Multiple grooves were being utilised as drivers searched around for extra speed and grip. Reed and Allgaier had some contact with 33 to go but both did well to hold onto their cars and avoid wrecking. A few laps later, Jones brought out another caution after spinning out close to pit lane. He immediately limped to his pit stall for some repairs.

There were 25 laps to go when the green flag waved again, and Blaney pushed Harvick in the restart, but it didn’t pay off when Harvick got loose and Austin held onto the lead. The 10th caution then soon came out for Annett after he got into the wall. The slick track was certainly living up to its reputation as these cars were slipping and sliding all over. It was a redo for drivers who resumed the race with 20 laps to go with Austin leading ahead of Harvick and Blaney. Taking the outside lane, Austin got ahead of Harvick, just as yet another caution came out for Sadler who span out exiting the corner. It was a close call with other drivers, who narrowly missed him as he cut down and across the track.

The race was back on with 14 laps to go, and Harvick was on the pole this time. Once again, he got a good push from Blaney and Harvick did assume a precarious and unstable lead ahead of Blaney and Austin. Behind those guys, drivers were running three-wide whilst Harvick worked hard to put distance between himself and everyone else. Also worth mentioning was Bell. He had span out right at the beginning of the race and had to work his way back up from the rear. With 10 laps to go, he was running in 5th and fought hard for his well-earned spot up at the top.

With 7 laps to go, Wallace Jr got into the wall and fishtailed for half a lap before eventually losing control and spinning out. He brought out the 12th caution for the day and said goodbye to his chance of a race win, or even a top 10 finish in his signature 6th position. It was going to be a shootout for the finish as the race restarted with only 3 laps to go. Harvick was on the pole and just pulled away from Blaney who had a good restart. Not willing to give up yet, Blaney then dove in on Harvick on the corner, and nabbed that top spot for himself ahead of Harvick and Austin. Blaney ended up winning the race ahead of Harvick, Austin Dillon, Bell, Hamlin, Keselowski, Custer,, Poole, Gaughan and Reddick. Having done a spectacular job of making his way all way from the back to the front, this was Blaney’s 5th career victory and his 3rd victory at a 1.5 mile track. When asked about his victory, Blaney didn’t have much to say other than:

“To win at a track where my father did is pretty cool.”

Perhaps this victory will translate through to the cup race on Sunday, or perhaps it’s just another notch in the belt of experience. Either way, a win is a win and hopefully this will be a sign of things to come for the young driver, but in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series instead.