A good finish in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race requires both a fast race car and a fair amount of luck.
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team had the speed in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway but came up a little short on the luck side.
Blaney started 19th and was steadily moving forward, with the help of some timely tuning by crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew.
Blaney was running around the top 15 for much of the afternoon and was as high as 10th before experiencing some issues with what he believed was a loose wheel.
A couple of tire changes didn’t seem to solve the problem, but he soldiered on until he brushed the wall after Tony Stewart spun and disrupted the air flow around the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion.
Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew were able to patch up the damage caused when Blaney brushed the wall, but like it was for much of the race, there was no opportunity to take the wave-around during caution periods and rejoin the lead lap. Still, Blaney was able to move from 30th place after the Stewart incident to 24th at the finish.
“I thought we went forward OK at the beginning and got put in a bad spot and lost a bunch of spots when Stewart spun out,” Blaney said. “When he went sideways he took all the air off our car, every last bit of it, and we got loose and hit the wall. It put us behind all day, and we never got it back.”
Team co-owner Len Wood, while disappointed with the finishing position, said he was encouraged by the speed of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion and by Blaney’s ability to adapt to a new high-drag aerodynamic package that was in place for the race.
“Our car was fast at times, and Ryan was able to pass a lot of people,” Wood said. “When a driver in front of him would go to the bottom to pass another car, Ryan would shoot between them and pass two or three cars at a time.”
“We just didn’t have the track position we needed at the end of the race to improve our finish.”
Wood also is looking at the positives of the team’s next start, this coming weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, where the Wood Brothers Ford Fusion will carry the colors of sponsor SKF in the Bristol Night Race.
Although the Woods have run 65 Cup races at Bristol, they haven’t been there since the spring of 2011.
But Blaney has, and he’s been very successful in a limited number of starts in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and in the Xfinity Series.
Last year he beat Kyle Busch to win the Food City 300 Xfinity Series race, and in his two other Xfinity starts there he has finishes of seventh and fourth. In three truck series starts he has two top-six finishes with a best of third in 2013.
Blaney participated in a test session at Bristol in the No. 21 SKF Ford last month, and Wood said he was encouraged by the results.
“The car had good long-run speed,” he said.
Wood Brothers Racing PR