Saturday, May 28

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Hoping New Hampshire Notes Are Helpful At Phoenix

Ryan Blaney and his crew chief Jeremy Bullins have never competed in a Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, site of this weekend’s Good Sam 500.

But they have raced on a similar track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which like Phoenix is a mile in length and relatively flat.

At New Hampshire last year, Blaney put his team’s No. 21 Ford Fusion on top of the scoreboard after the opening session of knock-out qualifying and wound up starting 16th.

The notes gathered that weekend in Loudon, N.H., have Bullins encouraged as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team prepares for a three-race stretch of racing at tracks that he and Blaney have never run as Cup competitors.

“Fortunately we ran Loudon in 2015, and that track and Phoenix are somewhat similar,” Bullins said, adding that the new lower downforce package NASCAR has mandated for most tracks this year will add another challenge for the young team. “The low-downforce package will change some of our set-up parameters, as we expect the cars to be a little looser this year with the much smaller spoiler.”

To get the most benefit from the opening practice session at Phoenix, Bullins will vary from his usual practice strategy.

 “Anywhere we have raced or tested we try to start practice in qualifying trim,” he said. “But at Phoenix and other tracks we are going for the first time we will run some laps in race trim before swapping to qualifying mode at the end of practice.”
 
“That should give us a good baseline for Saturday's practice and give Ryan time to get a feel for the car and track as we head into qualifying.”
 
By that time, Blaney and Bullins should have a good idea how their Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will be performing under the new lower downforce package.
 
That will help Bullins as he prepares his game plan for Sunday’s 500-kilometer race.
 
“It will be interesting to see how much fall off in the tires we see in practice and how that affects the race strategy,” he said. “In the past, two-tire strategies have been effective at Phoenix, allowing you to gain track position and maintain it throughout the next stint.”
 
But if tires wear more than expected and speeds begin to slow after putting on just two fresh tires, that will call for a different strategy.
 
“If the tires wear more, causing the pace to slow more than in the past, two-tire strategies will go out the window,” Bullins said. 
 
Qualifying for the Good Sam 500 is set for Friday at 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is set to get the green flag on Sunday just after 3 p.m. Eastern with TV coverage on FOX.

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