After avoiding four out of the five wrecks he saw during the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and surviving another, Ryan Blaney navigated the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion to a remarkable ninth-place finish today.
“It was a good day,” Blaney said after climbing out of his taped-together race car. “We felt like earlier in the race I couldn’t pick a lane that was worth a dang. We kept going backwards. Hopefully this turns things around for us.”
Starting 19th on the grid, Blaney worked his way up to 10th by lap 44. On lap 49, he avoided being gathered up in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first accident of the day. During lap 58, the rookie driver missed being damaged when Michael Waltrip spun in front of him. Mid-race, Blaney was running in the mid-teens and averted the disaster of a lap 96 wreck.
“There was one run before we got in that wreck where we got up through there into the top 10,” Blaney continued. “I think we got to fifth actually, and then lost spots on the last pit stop.”
When the “big one” happened on lap 160, Blaney and his Wood Brothers No. 21 were in an inescapable position in the middle of several rows of three-lane racing and sustained major but not terminal damage. A couple of pit stops for duct tape and a ‘lucky dog’ wave-around put the historic team back on the lead lap and in position to make a push to the front.
“They did a good job fixing it,” he said. “It ran fine after that. I didn’t want to see that last caution. I thought we were set up good to go to the end there and I wanted to keep digging. Everyone bailed to the top and I didn’t have a lot of help on the bottom. That was unfortunate, but overall a decent day for us.
Blaney was in fifth place after averting yet another crash on lap 180. The re-start pushed him back to 15th, but he powered his way to ninth before the checkered flag flew.
The looming threat of nasty weather that could have shortened the race had many of the drivers pushing a little bit harder at different points in the event than usual.
“Yeah, a lot of hard racing and people being aggressive,” Blaney said. “I don’t know what caused that. A little of it might have been the weather threat. I think early in the race for sure. With 40 or 50 to go they said there might be some more weather so that might have played a role in it.”
The top-10 finish vaults Blaney into 18th place on the drivers’ points chart and will cut into Chase Elliott’s Sunoco NASCAR Rookie-of-the-Year points lead when those standings are updated on Monday.
Blaney and the Wood Brothers now head to Kansas Speedway for Saturday night’s GoBowling 400.
Ford Performance PR