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NASCAR Cup Series

Ryan Blaney Misses Win by 0.003 Seconds

Ryan Blaney battles Kyle Larson in the Ambetter Health 400. (Photo: Joshua White | The Podium Finish)

HAMPTON, Ga. — Coming to the white flag, the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway appeared to be Ryan Blaney’s race to lose. He was clear out in front, with no run coming from either lane.

However, in a last lap that had to be seen to be believed, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion found himself on the inside of a three-wide battle for the lead; a three-car sandwich with Daniel Suarez as the top bun and Kyle Busch as the fixings.

Entering turn three, Busch made a bold move to Blaney’s outside with a push from Bubba Wallace as Suarez got a run on the top lane. It looked like Wallace was going to push Blaney, his best friend, to the win, until losing grip and sliding up the track. From there, it was a drag race to decide who would win.

The finish was a matter of centimeters, the third closest in Cup history. According to Fox Sports’ Clint Bowyer, it appeared to be Blaney. However, replay showed that Suarez was ahead by the width of his splitter. Blaney became the third-closest runner-up in NASCAR history and Busch became the closest third-place finisher.

Blaney is now 3/5 in side-by-side finishes in his career.

“I thought I laid back enough in [turns] 1-2 to kind of not let both lanes get that big of a run,” Blaney told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little after the race. “I did that the three laps before the end and I was able to kind of manage it fairly well but they just got both lanes shoving super hard.”

Following a disappointing finish at the DAYTONA 500, the performance at Atlanta was much needed for the High Point, NC, native. He was one of a handful of drivers not involved in any accidents, was top-three in both stages, led the third most laps and his seventh-place average running position was the best of all drivers on Sunday.

Even though he was frustrated at running second, missing a chance to be the first to win a Cup race on both the old and new versions of Atlanta, Blaney couldn’t help but smile to be a part of that finish.

“What a cool finish,” he said. “That’s a lot of fun. That’s always a good time when we can do that, race clean, three-wide finish to the end.”

After the two drafting races to kick off the 2024 season, the reigning champion sits fifth in points heading into Las Vegas. Blaney ran sixth and scored stage points the last time the series was in Nevada last October.

Harry Loomis is a 23-year old co-managing editor of The Podium Finish. He joined TPF in September 2023, having previously written for his own racing outlet. He graduated from Missouri Western State University in May 2023, earning his degree in Convergent Journalism. At Missouri Western, Loomis became the Sports Director of Griffon Media, becoming a trusted member of the student newspaper and weekly newscasts. A passionate race fan since age six, Loomis is originally from St. Charles, MO, and is a big NHL and MLB fan.

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