Tuesday, Jan 25

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Claims Fourth Top 20 Finish of 2016

Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion gave the Wood Brothers a homecoming gift – their fourth top 20 in six 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup races – finishing 19th in the team’s return to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500.

Martinsville is the closest Sprint Cup track to the Wood Brothers’ original shop in Stuart, Va., and the team celebrated the return to the historic track with an open house on Friday evening.

Starting 12th after a strong qualifying effort on Friday, Blaney slid back to 19th on lap 33, then stayed in the top 15 for the next 300 laps of the 500-lap race. The rookie wheelman lost a lap to the leader on lap 450 but took the wave-around when a caution flag flew 10 laps later.

“The 18 car was going to get by me regardless, so I didn’t want to mess their race up,” Blaney explained. “So I just pulled over and kind of let those guys have their race. You don’t want to screw up the leader’s race and I didn’t want to be that guy.”

Blaney maintained his position on the lead lap despite a last-pit-stop penalty when his crew went over the wall early.

“That penalty didn’t help during that last pit stop,” he said. “That probably cost us a few spots but we had some runs where I thought we were okay and other runs where I thought we were way off. At the end we were just okay. It wasn’t the best day but at least we came home on the lead lap.”

Blaney said he was conscious of his rookie status and his experience level at the historic paperclip-shaped oval.

“I was pretty courteous today,” he said. “You don’t want to be the rough guy when it’s your first time and you’re a rookie, so I probably gave a little bit more than I should have, but maybe we’ll put that in our bank and utilize that in the fall.”

Blaney kept the legendary No. 21 car one place ahead of Chase Elliott and his No. 24 car and pulled within a few points of his prime competitor for NASCAR Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

The 19th-place finish puts Blaney into 15th place in the drivers’ standings and the Wood Brothers 16th in owners’ points.

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