Rookie Ryan Blaney, his rookie crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team turned in a commendable performance in Blaney’s first Sprint Cup race on a road course.
Blaney started 26th in Sunday’s 110-lap race at Sonoma Raceway, stayed on the course all afternoon and came home with a 23rd-place finish.
Bullins made the right strategy calls, making his first stops on Laps 18 and 42 and picking up track position in the process both times. That allowed Blaney to race among the top 10 and top 15 for most of the ensuing runs.
At the end of the race, Blaney’s No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion carried the scars of some tough racing on the winding, 11-turn track, but he wasn’t exactly sure where all the dings and dents came from.
“I have no idea,” Blaney said. “People check up, and you run into them.”
Although Blaney shouldered blame for not being able to hold the track position he gained by pit strategy, team co-owner Eddie Wood praised the young driver and his crew chief for their performance against some stiff competition.
“For their first time racing with drivers who have been coming here for a long, long time, to finish in the top 25 is an accomplishment,” Wood said. “The pit strategy was good and gained us some spots, but the cautions didn’t fall right for us, and that kept us from taking full advantage of the strategy.”
Blaney’s 13th top-25 finish in the 16 races so far this season places him 17th in the Sprint Cup standings, 16 points out the top 15, as the circuit heads back to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400.