The rain stayed away at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, allowing Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team a chance to qualify for the Quicken Loans 400 at one of the tracks that mean the most to them.
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew responded in a big way, earning the fifth starting spot for Sunday’s 400 mile race.
Michigan International Speedway is the home track for Ford Motor Company, the long-time backer of the Wood Brothers and the team’s iconic No. 21 Ford. Sunday’s race will be the 91st at Michigan for the Woods, and their car will start in the top-five for the 24th time.
Blaney, and his crew chief Jeremy Bullins managed that feat despite the fact that neither of them had ever competed at Michigan at the Sprint Cup level. Nonetheless, Blaney posted the 10th-fastest time in practice on Friday with a best lap at 199.917 miles per hour. Then, in the three rounds of qualifying, he bettered his speed each time, posting a lap at 201.056 mph in the final round.
“It's really all you can ask for to be better and better in the three rounds,” Blaney said. “Everyone did a great job. Jeremy (Bullins) did a great job of getting us better.”
It was the second top-five qualifying effort for Blaney and Bullins in the past three races, along with a fourth-place start at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It was a good effort for us,” Blaney continued. “We needed it. We're excited about Sunday.”
In the days leading up to Friday, the main worry for the Wood Brothers and for the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was the weather. Rain was forecasted, and if qualifying had been washed out, the team had the least qualifying attempts this season of the 44 teams vying for 43 spots. The prospect of missing the race was on Eddie Wood’s mind all week.
“I tried every weather app that I could find on my phone, and they all showed rain,” the team co-owner said. “My son Jon was the only one who said otherwise. He had been studying the models throughout the day and said we would probably get to qualify. He was the one that was right.”
“It was a real relief to get to qualify. It was a humbling day. But I couldn’t be more proud of Ryan and Jeremy and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.”
With the Sprint Cup Series racing at Michigan, all teams want to be at their best. For Wood and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, it’s a relief to be in the show on Sunday for many reasons.
“First off, Ford Performance and Motorcraft/Quick Lane are bringing 2,100 employees to the track on Sunday, and getting to talk to them and visit with them is really big for us,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been as meaningful for them or for us if we weren’t in the race.”
And, with a top-five starting spot, the prospects for a successful Sunday look promising, as Blaney pointed out.
“Track position is pretty important here, and qualifying well gives you a good spot in the pits,” he said. “That's what we wanted. It sets up your whole weekend. The Motorcraft/Quick Lane car was really good from the first laps. It just shows the preparation from all these guys at Wood Brothers Racing. They do a good job preparing these cars and I think it showed today."
Wood Brothers Racing PR