Ryan Blaney has been running NASCAR-sanctioned races at Texas Motor Speedway since 2012. He had never found his way to Victory Lane.
Blaney went the distance, from pole-sitter to champion, in a dominating performance in the Xfinity Series’ My Bariatric Solutions 300. Blaney led 132 of 200 laps, but had no interest in keeping the checkered flag from his memorable day.
Instead, Blaney handed it to a kid in the stands. Blaney appreciated the fans who stuck around for the coldest race in track history.
“They stayed out there the whole race,” Blaney said. “It was unbelievable how many kids were in the stands and at the fence and really cheering and pumped up. Hopefully they had a great time. My main thing is trying to make a memory that lasts a lifetime.”
The announced temperature was 34 degrees when the green flag dropped a little after 2 p.m. That made it the coldest race in the 21-year history of TMS.
The previous coldest was 47 degrees in the spring 2007 Xfinity race won by Matt Kenseth.
That didn’t stop Blaney, though, from guiding the No. 22 Ford to a third straight victory in the Xfinity Series. His Team Penske teammates, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, had won the previous two races in the series.
It’s the first time a team has won three straight races with the same car and different drivers since Joe Gibbs Racing did it in 2008 with Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.
“I’m not going to lie, Brad and Joey definitely reminded me of that this week,” Blaney said. “It is in the back of your mind. You never want to be the person who breaks the streak of wins, especially when the car has been so fast. That’s a huge feat to do.”
Especially for Blaney, who hadn’t had much luck at Texas.
This is a guy who had five top-three finishes in six career Xfinity starts, including two runner-up runs last season, going into the race. In trucks, he’s had two top-fives in six career races. In Cup, his best finish came last fall with a sixth-place run in his sixth start.
Christopher Bell finished second, leading 10 laps, and Daniel Hemric finished third, leading 39 laps. Rounding out the top-five were Cole Custer and Ryan Preece.
Outside of Blaney’s victory, the other storyline coming out of the race was Morgan Shepherd making his 1,000th start in a NASCAR national series.
The 76-year-old Shepherd finished 38th out of 40 cars, completing 33 laps. It marked his 426th Xfinity race to go along with 517 Cup races and 57 truck races.
Shepherd’s spotter happened to be Jimmie Johnson’s father, Gary, because Shepherd ranked among the early people who helped Johnson begin what has become a legendary career with 83 wins and seven championships.