Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers Racing Team were looking for their luck to improve when they unloaded the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion for the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Good luck they did find, as well as considerable speed.
That good fortune and speed combined to give Blaney a stellar fourth-place finish (the team’s best since winning the Daytona 500 in 2011), which put an exclamation point on the best weekend of his young NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
“We had a good car,” Blaney said. “We were pretty loose early and (Crew Chief) Jeremy Bullins did a great job of tightening us up a good bit. That really allowed us to race hard through there, but you’ve got to go through that rookie deal in the beginning, even the middle of the race, nobody wants to go with you.”
The 21-year-old driver started in third after two solid qualifying runs and was in that same spot running strong with two laps to go in the historic 188-lap race.
When the cars behind Blaney decided to try to overtake him in the second-to-last lap, he slipped back a few places but recovered to claim fourth before he reached the checkered flag.
“I knew Denny (Hamlin) was going to make a move (from fourth) but I thought he was going to do it later,” Blaney said of the last two laps.”I kept looking (back) at him to see if he was laying back and starting to get a run because the 48 wasn’t really laying back at all to try and get a run on the 88, so I just kept watching (Hamlin). I don’t think he laid back enough to get a big run. The 4 must have pushed him like crazy to get by me. I was trying to do what Denny did, but it just didn’t really work out. I didn’t want to get left out, but we did.”
Leading up to the last two laps, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team’s No. 21 was strong and fortuitous all day under the strong Alabama sun. Whenever Blaney found himself shuffled back in the field he found the power to get himself back to a competitive position.
Good fortune came when he avoided being reeled in by a massive, 12-car incident on lap 47. Continued good luck was visited on the No. 21 when the team pitted under green late in the race and while getting service a caution flag appeared, allowing Blaney to restart in seventh rather than much farther back.
“We were lucky to be in that position at the end of the race,” Blaney said. “We made a couple of good moves about three-quarters of the way though and guys started coming with us more. The moves we made worked out and the guys trusted us more and that allowed us to get into position for the end of the race.”
By the time there were 24 laps to go, Blaney was firmly in third place and stayed there until the final two revolutions.
“I’m just happy to run the whole race,” he said. “That’s something this team needed very badly after blowing up at Daytona and Texas. It’s good to get a good finish with these guys and we’re really excited to go to Charlotte.”
Blaney referred to the next stop for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team: The Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Ford Performance PR