“Having a good run at Talladega definitely gives us confidence,” Blaney said. “The team is excited and I'm very excited to get on track at Charlotte for the 600.”
Blaney has raced at Charlotte four times (twice in the Camping World Truck Series and twice in the XFINITY Series) in his brief NASCAR career. His best showing came in the XFINITY race last fall when he started 19th and finished 4th.
“Charlotte has been an up-and-down track for me the past few years,” said the driver of the iconic No. 21 Ford. “We've gotten in wrecks in both truck races, but have run well there in XFINITY. We were able to test Charlotte in a Cup car about a month ago and that was very valuable to get seat time.”
Charlotte is a track where the Wood Brothers have had a lot of success. In 109 starts, the team has amassed six wins (four in the former World 600) and 20 poles, including every pole from the fall race in 1973 to the fall race in 1979.
“We want to win every place we go, but winning on your home turf would be very special,” Blaney said. “With it being the 600 and one of Wood Brothers’ great tracks, hopefully we can have a good run.”
This will be the first time the 21-year-old Sprint Cup rookie will attempt to run 600 miles.
“I'm excited about going 600 miles,” Blaney said. “You have to have a different mindset, but I’m very eager to run this high-endurance race.”
Crew chief Bullins explained how the driver’s and the team’s mindset has to change for the longest race of the season.
“You have to have patience in the middle stages of the race,” Bullins said. “You have to remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint and you have to log laps in the middle and make sure your strategy is getting you set up for the end.”
Bullins also noted the challenges presented to teams by the Memorial Day weekend’s race schedule.
“The hardest part is the race ends at night and you qualify at night but all of the practices are mid-day,” he said. “You really have to have enough experience to have a good feel of what the balance shift will be as you go into the evening.”
Bullins said the Top 5 Talladega finish was much-needed tonic for a team that has been somewhat snake-bitten in 2015, but doesn’t believe much in momentum carry-over.
“It’s a positive to get a finish, and a good one,” he said. “After some bad luck early, we needed that. I truly believe we weren’t far away from being in the Top 10 each week we’ve run, so to finish there was good and a Top 5 was a bonus.
“It doesn’t hurt (that the team ran well at its last race), but it’s a new game when we get to Charlotte and all that’s in the past,” Bullins said. “We have to stay focused on improving and putting a good car on the track.”
Like every NASCAR Sprint Cup car competing in the Coca-Cola 600, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will honor the memory of a fallen soldier during the Memorial Day weekend race. The No. 21 front windshield decal will carry the name of Cpl. Jonathan W. Bowling, a U.S. Marine and Wood family friend who was killed in 2005 during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. A native of Stuart, Va., Cpl. Bowling was a member of the Virginia-based Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Combat Engineer Battalion.
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