Pit Road Woes Relegate Blaney To a 20th-Place Finish in Coca-Cola 600

Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team started strong in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but a series of misfortunes led to a 20th-place finish.

Blaney started 18th and drove his way into the top 15 in the opening laps, only to have to go to the rear of the pack after being nabbed for speeding on pit road. Back on the attack again, Blaney rallied back to 16th before more troubles on pit road sent him back to the rear on two more occasions, once because of a loose wheel.

“It was a long night, man, a really, really long night,” Blaney said in his post-race interview.

“Nothing could go right for us. That was the frustrating part.”

Despite the troubles, Blaney remained on the lead lap for most of a Coca-Cola 600 that saw the caution flag displayed just four times for 19 laps. And he maintained that position in spite of body damage his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion sustained over the course of the race.

That body damage likely led to a cut tire with two laps remaining, but the Motorcraft crew got Blaney back on the track in time to salvage a 20th-place finish, which allowed him to remain in a tie with Ryan Newman for 15th place in the Sprint Cup standings.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that considering all the setbacks in the race, he’s happy to leave Charlotte with the final result, which is the ninth time in the 13 races this season that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion has finished in the top half of the running order.

“For a night when we had to go to the rear a couple of times, it could have been a lot worse,” Wood said. “We got a good bit of body damage throughout the night. The car was already a little on the tight side, and that damage just made it worse.”

Wood also said he appreciates his team pressing forward after some early miscues.

“The pit crew redeemed themselves with some good stops later in the race,” he said. “[Crew chief] Jeremy [Bullins] made a good call at the end to put on two right-side tires and get Ryan out there and preserve a 20th-place finish.

“Ryan hung in there all night, and we were able to honor Signal Seaman Cherone L. Gunn, who lost his life in an attack on the U.S.S. Cole and in doing so helped make it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms all of us in America enjoy.”

For his part, Blaney said his car never was as good once the sun went down. And he said he had some room for improvement too.

“There's some stuff we have to work on with the race car,” he said. “I probably didn't do the best job [Sunday night].”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to action this week at Pocono Raceway, where Blaney has never driven a Sprint Cup car but back in 2013 drove Brad Keselowski’s truck to victory in a Camping World Truck Series race.

The Wood Brothers have two wins at Pocono, one apiece with David Pearson and Neil Bonnett, but have not competed there since 2008.