RYAN V. RYAN: BLANEY AND NEWMAN BATTLE AT BRISTOL

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Ryan Blaney locked horns with Ryan Newman at Bristol Motor Speedway and survived to tell the tale.

A full-contact Sunday afternoon back-and-forth between them in the late going of the Food City 500 ended with both Ryans sharing a post-race laugh about it on pit road. The good-natured ribbing and squeeze of the shoulders was easier to stomach after both salvaged top-10 finishes on a day of survival at the rugged Tennessee half-mile.

With 72 laps to go, Blaney’s Team Penske No. 12 Ford carried momentum up into Newman’s Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford at the exit of Turn 2. The two Mustangs collided, and Newman’s car scraped against the outside retaining wall. A handful of laps later, Newman gave Blaney’s car a substantial nudge in retaliation, but both continued without further incident.

“I told him if he’s going to listen to his spotter, he might as well just take the mirror out of the car,” Newman said post-race, delivering hard-edged comments that were softened by a wide grin. “Just cut me off on the back straightaway, kind of hurt both of us. But it was hard racing, I guess that happens at Bristol. It just sucks when it happens to you.”

Later — and importantly, still smiling — Newman said that the contact could be chalked up to both Blaney and the Bristol’s rambunctious brand of racing. “Both. You expect more out of that, and out of him especially,” he said. “If it was a rookie, it’s one thing. But his spotter can’t drive the car, and his spotter’s got to see those runs, too.”

Blaney explained that Josh Williams, his spotter, wasn’t to blame.

“Yeah, I put him in the fence off of (turn) two on accident. I tried to clear him myself,” Blaney said. “Just racing hard on a restart and my spotter said he was still out there, but I stayed on the gas trying to clear him myself. I fenced him and I felt bad about that. He got me back. He fenced me off the frontstretch, so that’s hard racing.

“Me and Ryan have always raced each other really good. I’ve looked up to him for a long time, and it’s nice you can have a laugh about it and joke about it and not be pissed about it, so it was my fault. I just tried to clear myself.”

Blaney and Newman persevered, though both had realistic chances of placing higher on the scoring pylon. Blaney finished fourth, despite leading a race-high 158 of the 500 laps. And Newman grabbed his best finish of the season in ninth, overcoming a penalty for improper fueling on a Lap 435 pit stop.

Blaney’s effort was his fourth top-five result in the last five races. His post-race lament was his difficulty in adjusting to the variable track conditions on the rough concrete surface.

“I kind of run into this all the time here,” Blaney said. “We’re good early and then I can’t figure out kind of what I need to do to get better as the track rubbers up. Joey’s really good at it. I thought he had the best car probably. The track rubbers in and gosh, I just need to do something different there. Overall not a bad day. We were up there all race and just trying to keep up with the track. The track was really racy today from bottom to top. I thought it put on a really good show.”

Newman’s season-best marks a high point in his first year with the Roush Fenway No. 6 team, which spent time among the top five before the slight fade near the end.

“We had a car that was probably better than what we ran all day,” Newman said. “We just kind of got caught up there. Don’t know what happened with the penalty on pit road there. Need an explanation for that, but either way, good day for us. …

“I don’t know. I’ve put in a lot of work before and not gotten rewards, so just proud of the guys. They did a good job on pit road, even with the penalty. We’ll just keep digging.”

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