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If you tuned into NASCAR’s 2022 Daytona 500 and didn’t hang around until the end, you missed the turbulent finish between Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney who both drive Fords on Team Penske. But thanks to the latest episode of USA Network's "Race for the Championship," fans have been given an inside perspective on the drama between the two teammates.
On lap 194 with six laps to go, Cindric commanded the interior lane, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the outside in the No.47 Chevrolet and Blaney fell in behind Cindric. After contact from Brad Keselowski, Stenhouse Jr. spun out, and the cautions came out. Blaney sets up the tense, late-race scenario before breaking down what led to the incident.
“If you have a non-teammate behind you at the end of the race, they can just pull out of line and leave you hanging,” Blaney said. “You know that a teammate is not going to leave you hanging.”
“I suggested doing the switch where the leader teammate will take the top, and the teammate running on the bottom who’s second will let the guy down,” Blaney continued. “It’s the best way to help our lane win the race and make sure we brought home a 500 for [team owner] Roger [Penske].”
As the race picked back up, Cindric came out fast before pulling down ahead of Blaney for the perfectly executed restart. With one flag left to go, Cindric controlled the lead, getting a hugely helpful push from his teammate Blaney. Keselowski tried to make a move, opening up the outside for Blaney, but as Blaney’s No.12 Ford swept around, Cindric – who is in his rookie NASCAR Cup Series season – blocked Blaney, effectively jamming him up on the wall. The bold move paid off for Cindric who won after stifling Bubba Wallace’s last-minute effort. Blaney fell down to fourth.
While a euphoric Cindric celebrated with his team, in the actual moment, Blaney and his crew were noticeably irate.
“I’m gonna f-----g kill that kid,” Blaney fumed from his cockpit as he disengaged his steering wheel and threw it into his dash.
Reflecting on the events at Daytona International Speedway, Blaney’s feelings about the incident with his teammate and son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric appear to have softened to some extent.
“I thought we were in the best spot possible, and Austin threw a block, and I ended up getting in the wall, and I just sat there like ‘I just can’t believe what happened,’” Blaney recalled on "Race for the Championship." “That’s a tough thing. You know, when you’re so closed to something, and it’s just taken away, and you wish you could push the damn rewind button and be like ‘Let’s try to do it over and see if it’s different.’”
As the show highlights, the writing had been on the wall since the final lap of The Duel that Thursday night when Cindric swooped in front of Blaney on the inside, pushing him to fourth. Even NASCAR legend and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon caught the eyebrow-raising move by the rookie Cindric.
“Cindric is Blaney’s teammate, and there at the end, he ran inside and didn’t push him,” Gordon explained. “That was interesting.”
Blaney offered some of his own thoughts about Cindric’s move in The Duel.
“It stunk getting hung out by your teammate, but I think he learned on that, but that’s just one of those things that a rookie working with teammates – he just learns with experience,” Blaney noted.
Despite those issues, Blaney appears to be doing his best to look ahead and put the incident behind him.
“Man, we’ve been so close, and I thought that was our best shot, but you get over it and move on.”
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And catch up on all race action on Peacock.
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