Ryan Blaney won Stage 1 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Ryan Blaney led a full-court press by Ford Performance during the opening stage of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, leading the legendary Wood Brothers to victory in the race’s opening stage.

Blaney dominated the 85-lap segment, seizing the point from polesitter Kevin Harvick on a lap 16 restart with a bold outside pass and only giving up the lead once more from there.

Though the pilot of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Ford came off pit road second to Harvick following the race’s competition caution flag at lap 30, Blaney quickly resumed command on the ensuing restart, pacing the remaining 49 circuits of stage one en route to the stage victory.

In total, the 23-year-old High Point, N.C. native led 66 of 85 laps, more than double the number of laps he had led in his first 60 Cup races combined.

Sunday marked Blaney’s first stage win of the season and provided a huge boost for the underdog Wood Brothers team, putting a playoff point into their team bank as well.

“Our car’s pretty good; that was pretty cool,” Blaney said after pit stops, which dropped him to second behind Martin Truex Jr.

“We ran into traffic there and the 78 (Truex) ran us down … he might have been better at the end of that stage there, but fortunate we were able to hold on. Hopefully we made the right adjustments to keep fighting up front. The track is changing quite a bit, so we’ll have to stay on top of that for the rest of the day.”

“We are still loose getting into Turn 1 … the wind is kind of gusting and it’s unpredictable in there, so that’s probably my biggest trouble spot. I get pretty tight off of Turn 2. Hopefully the changes we made will help that out a little bit.”

A tough slog through slower traffic meant that Blaney had to hold off a late charge by Martin Truex Jr., who closed to within four car lengths of the second-generation young gun in the final laps of stage one but could not make a move to challenge for the lead.

Jamie McMurray was third, with Harvick and Brad Keselowski completing the top five.

Kyle Larson was sixth after having to come from the back twice in the opening laps, followed by Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, who all scored stage points at the first break.

A caution at lap three slowed the pace after NASCAR spotters found debris on the frontstretch, and that was followed by a three-car crash in turns one and two that collected Jeffrey Earnhardt, Reed Sorenson and Gray Gaulding on the 10th round.

The only other yellow flag during stage one was the planned competition caution at lap 30.

Six Ford drivers finished inside the points in stage one, and at one point they were running first through sixth on the race track.


About the Writer

Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.

Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: editor@racechaseronline.com

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Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman, 24, is the founder and managing editor of 77 Sports Media and a major contributing writer for SPEED SPORT Magazine. He is studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and also serves as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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