A late-race brush with the wall left Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team to play a supporting role on a grand day for Ford Motor Company at its home track, Michigan International Speedway.
Blaney and his No. 21 Ford Fusion started the race from a season-best fifth position and were among the top 10 for the first half of the race. But an untimely caution flag during a round of green-flag pit stops just prior to the halfway point put Blaney and his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team in catch-up mode.
By being the free-pass car and some hard driving, Blaney was able to move back inside the top 15 and eventually into the top 10. But an incident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just after a restart with just over 40 laps left to run saw Blaney slide into the wall.
After repairs to his No. 21 Fusion he restarted the race in 29th position and began working his way forward. His forward progress was aided by a call by crew chief Jeremy Bullins to stay on the track during the race’s final caution period, and he drove his way to 17th place at the finish.
Despite the disappointment, it was Blaney’s sixth consecutive finish of 20th or better and his 11th top-20 finish in the 15 races this season.
Blaney said afterward that he was surprised by the way his car reacted after Stenhouse drove across the track in front of him.
“It completely took all the traction off my car and I slid all the way to the fence,” he said. “That's never happened to me before.”
He also said he was proud of the way he and his team recovered from the mid-race setback when the caution flag flew after he’d made his pit stop but before the rest of the leaders stopped.
“We had to start all the way to the back,” he said. “We had a really good car on longer runs. We got really good and we were driving up there really fast.”
Blaney dropped one position in the points standings to 16th and leads 17th-place Kasey Kahne by 11 points heading into an off weekend before getting back to work at Sonoma Raceway in two weeks.
Team co-owner Len Wood said that while he’d have rather finished higher, it’s hard to be too disappointed any time Ford Motor Company wins at Michigan International Speedway, the home track for the Dearborn-based auto manufacturer.
“Congratulations to Team Penske and Joey Logano for an impressive victory,” Wood said. “And good luck to the Ford GT team as they return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this week.”