Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 SKF Ford were off to a good start in Saturday’s Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway before a speeding penalty on their first pit stop put in play a series of events that led to a 22nd-place finish.
Blaney had moved up from his 15th starting spot to 13th when the caution flag flew at lap 52. He was tagged for speeding on pit road and had to restart at the rear of the pack. By lap 104, he had gained five positions in the running order, but was overcome by the race leaders and dropped off the lead lap.
In the ensuing laps, crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the SKF team had to balance the need to work on the handling of the No. 21 Ford Fusion with the potential strategy plays needed to try to rejoin the lead lap.
“We really didn’t want to take the wave-around at first because we still needed to work on the car to make it better,” team co-owner Len Wood said. “Jeremy and the crew ended up getting the car handling a lot better, and Ryan ran really hard, spending most of the race side-by-side with other drivers, but with the way the cautions fell, we never could get the track position we needed to get a better finish.
It just wasn’t meant to be for us to get that track position.”
Blaney, in his post-race comments, said the speeding penalty was tough to try to overcome.
“I put us behind the ball early by speeding on the first stop and that put us in the back, which gets you in traffic and a lap down early,” he said, adding that he had a good enough car late in the race to move up if he hadn’t been pinned laps down. “The second-to-last run I actually thought we were pretty good, but we could never catch a wave-around break or anything like that.”
“It’s not the night we wanted, but we gained some good experience and hopefully we come back here better.”
The victory in the Night Race went to Joey Logano and his No. 22 Ford from Team Penske, which has an alliance with the Wood Brothers.
“Congratulations to Team Penske and Joey Logano on their second-straight win in the Night Race and second in the past three Sprint Cup races,” Wood said. “It looks like they’re peaking at just the right time to make a strong run for the championship.”
Blaney and the Wood Brothers team will be back on track in two weeks at Darlington Raceway, then on Sept. 20, the SKF logos will return to the No. 21 for the MyAfibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the third and final race this season in which the No. 21 will carry SKF sponsorship.
“We really appreciate SKF coming on board with us this season,” Wood said. “It meant a lot to us to get to go back to Bristol.”
Wood Brothers Racing PR