What a difference a year makes for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
Last year, Blaney was 16th fastest in the pre-qualifying practice at Kentucky Speedway, but did not get to race after qualifying was rained out and his then-part-time team did not have a provisional starting position.
This year, rain again washed out Sprint Cup qualifying at Kentucky, but Blaney will race as there are only 40 teams entered for the 40 starting spots. He’ll start 15th, as the lineup is now set by owner’s points in the event qualifying is cancelled.
“The good news is we are in the show,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “With rain interrupting things here at Kentucky, we’ll probably have to go into the race knowing we will have to make adjustments to the car as the race goes on.”
Blaney pointed out that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team spent most of the pre-qualifying practice time scuffing the tires that will be used Saturday night on a freshly repaved race track.
“We had 16 sets of tires, [and] Goodyear suggested that we scuff all of them,” Blaney said. “With the testing that they’ve done, they thought it best to get them hot, then let them cool down, and then let them recover just so we don’t have any problems in the race.”
That meant there was little time to try out different set-ups on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. “We didn’t change anything on our car,” he said. “In that little practice we got I think we scuffed three sets of tires and it started raining, so that was unfortunate.”
With a reconfigured race track including all-new paving, plus a lower-downforce package to deal with this weekend, Blaney is hoping that the experience he gets in tonight’s Xfinity Series race will help him make up for the lack of Sprint Cup practice.
“I think the Xfinity race is going be huge to run tonight, and I’m fortunate that I’ll be able to run it,” he said. “Anytime we can go to a race track and run the Xfinity race or the Truck race before the Cup race is huge.”
“It’s even more meaningful when we can do it on a newly paved surface. You just kind of figure out where the track goes, and the best thing is they start at pretty similar times, so we’ll be able to compare a lot more notes from this race tonight over to tomorrow, and I think if we do it right, we can really learn a lot.”