Motorsport News

When Running 3rd Was a Charm

#12: Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, MenardsRichmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang, #2: Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Freightliner Ford Mustang

The large majority of us have heard the phrase, “Third time’s a charm.”

The same can be said for NASCAR at times, as there have been many moments where being in third place put a driver in the catbird seat.

The latest example is the freshest to our memory, as a dropped cylinder by Christopher Bell and an apparent fuel miscalculation by Ryan Blaney‘s team handed the win to Austin Cindric at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Cindric’s second career win and playoff-twisting triumph capped off a race dictated by strategy and a lot of unknowns. But even when we appeared to have a clear winner, there was no warning that Blaney’s fuel tank would run dry.

In NASCAR’s history, there have been dozens of times across all three series when the third-place driver in the closing laps ended up in victory lane.

For the sake of limitation, we are only going to look at a couple of instances from the NASCAR Cup Series in which the top two drivers had fuel or mechanical issues, leading to a third-place spoiler.

1979 Daytona 500

As an exception to the guidelines above, we can’t talk about a third-place car taking advantage of the leaders’ issues without revisiting perhaps NASCAR’s most important race.

With millions of people snowed in from a massive blizzard along the East Coast, the first flag-to-flag television coverage of the Daytona 500 was one of their only choices to tune into. My, my, how that worked out.

The race was coming down to Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. On the final lap, Yarborough made a move to the inside of Allison, prompting Allison to attempt a block. Yarborough got into the grass, slid into Allison, and both drivers eventually hit the wall before coming to rest in the infield at the entry of turn 3.

Who took advantage of the wreck? None other than six-time champion Richard Petty (he won his seventh that year), who held off Darrell Waltrip to win the race.

But what still headlines this race was the iconic call by the late, great broadcaster Ken Squier, with echoes of, “And there’s a fight,” still ringing as Allison and Yarborough exchanged blows.

2009 LifeLock 400

When Cindric took the checkered flag on Sunday, this was the race that came to several peoples’ minds in how it went down.

In the midst of a three-time title defense campaign, Jimmie Johnson looked poised to snatch another…

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