For a 21-year-old driver running in just his third career Sprint Cup race, Ryan Blaney showed poise aplenty in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. And his Jeremy Bullins-led team passed a couple of pit-road tests with flying colors, even as the final results didn’t reflect the positives of the overall performance of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
For the majority of the 57th running of the 500, Blaney kept his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in position to make a run for the front in the closing laps. But it didn’t end well for him and his Wood Brothers team as engine failure with just 25 laps remaining put him out of the 500 and left him with a 39th-place finish.
Even in the midst of the engine woes, Blaney responded calmly, steering his Fusion out of harm’s way. His skillful move there wasn’t nearly as impressive as one on lap 41 when Tony Stewart lost control of his car and slid into Blaney, who managed to keep his Fusion pointed forward and was able to continue with minimal damage. He did so even as Stewart and Matt Kenseth, running directly behind Blaney, suffered far more serious damage.
Blaney drove the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion to pit road, where the Motorcraft crew, led by Bullins, made repairs and soon got the No. 21 Fusion back in shape to compete with the drivers in the lead draft.
“It was a great job by Jeremy and the crew,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “They made the repairs and got the car good as new. And Ryan did a great job of staying out of trouble.”
Blaney said he couldn’t see the damage from the driver’s seat but trusted Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew to get him back on track in good shape.
“I couldn’t see how bad it was hurt,” Blaney said. “They said it was OK. It was a little tight, affecting the [toe-in] and aero and stuff.”
“After they worked on it, it got better. I thought we were going to race good up there, and we were until the engine blew.”
Blaney said that overall, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team members, who had to race their way into the 500 with a sixth-place finish in last Thursday’s 150-mile Gatorade Duel, should be leaving Speedweeks with their heads held high.
“We had a good showing,” he said. “We started off great, got some damage, worked our way back forward.”
“It didn’t end like we wanted it to but we’ve got Vegas in a couple of weeks where I think we can really show what we can do.”
Wood also left Daytona with a smile on his face, for several reasons.
“Obviously it was unfortunate that we had engine problems, but I’m excited about the way the team performed,” he said. “I’m looking forward to what the rest of the season brings.”
“And we’re all really happy for our fellow Ford teammates at Team Penske. We’re really happy with our relationship with them and really proud of them for winning the Daytona 500 and giving Ford Motor Company a sweep of Speedweeks.”
Blaney, Wood and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to the track on March 6-8 for the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Wood Brothers Racing PR