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NASCAR Cup at Daytona: Blaney makes it two wins in a row; Larson regular season champion

Daytona Beach, FL, Aug 28/21 (by John Davison): Ryan Blaney avoided crashes and won the Coke Zero Sugar 400, avoiding a pair of late-race multi-car crashes and finishing the race under caution after Kurt Busch tapped Daniel Suarez, sending him and Kevin Harvick out of control and collecting about half the field remaining after another multi-car crash just a few laps earlier.

Kyle Larson, who had started the race from the back of the field after pre-race inspection issues, finished race in 20th place, took the regular season championship in the No. 5 Hendrick Cars Chevy “Our team has worked so hard all of the regular season,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without Mr. Hendrick and Linda and all of their support. Everybody back at the shop, too. This is a long season and we still have 10 races to go. It’s a long point to get here and it’s just a big hats off to everybody at the shop.

"Yeah, the race went well until the last lap. We didn't get any stage points the first time, first stage, and the 11 did. I felt like after thinking about it a little bit more if I could just kind of follow him and stay close to him in the second stage, he wouldn't gain much on me."

Blaney admitted that the finish "was wild. We missed that big one barely. I don't know how we missed it and then we got a restart on the front row and it was kind of a drag race. I'm really thankful to LaJoie, who gave me a really good push and we were able to get clear on the restart, so I appreciate the push from him." I was having to hold off the 4 and the 17 and the 7 and I didn't really know which lane to go with down the back, so I kind of picked the middle and I kind of committed to the bottom and I guess some people got turned, but what a couple of cool weeks that's for sure. It was a very eventful race. It's so cool to be here in victory lane in Daytona. Maybe we're on a roll right now and we've got everything going our way. Hopefully, we keep it up."

This Daytona race was the final race in the ‘regular season’. After this, there will be a 10-race elimination-style playoff series – a competition for the title among the 16 drivers who have qualified to contest the playoffs. The playoffs will culminate with the finale at Phoenix in November when the final four playoff drivers will fight it out for the championship. As for the other 24 or so competitors, they will be there but they will be just along for the ride as it where.

If there are favourites going into the playoffs, the list has to include the top two in the regular season championship standings: Kyle Larson with five race wins and Denny Hamlin who had been a close second in the regular season championship despite having not won a single race so far this year.

The 10-race playoffs series is made up of three three-race elimination rounds, with 16 drivers contesting the first three-race round, then 12 and eight in the next two elimination rounds with just the four top drivers left to fight it out in the Phoenix finale. Of these final four, the driver who finished this race with the best result – probably the race win – will be declared the season champion.

The first playoff race, the first race of the three-race ‘Round of 16' will be held at Darlington Raceway, next Sunday, September 5th.

• Click HERE for the Race Results of the Daytona race.

• Click HERE for the list of the 16 drivers advancing to the Playoff competition

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