Battling back from adversity seems to be the hallmark of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and the Bojangles’ Southern 500 was no exception as Ryan Blaney overcame a late-race, two-lap deficit to finish 13th.
The team’s first hurdle came when it was among the first to pit on green during lap 49. A caution followed shortly thereafter and the Wood Brothers’ famous No. 21, sporting David Pearson’s paint scheme from 1976, was two laps down.
"That's a long race to begin with and we made it longer by having bad racing luck with that caution early in the race, which put us down two laps,” Blaney said.
“We lost our track position early by gambling with a short pit,” explained crew chief Jeremy Bullins. “The one thing that kills you is if you catch a caution and we did. We went two laps down there and fought our way back.”
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford was back on the lead lap by the 115th lap but then Blaney brushed the wall between turns three and four causing fender damage that ultimately caused the right rear tire to go flat. Again down two laps.
Still more trouble arose when Blaney got together with A.J. Allmendinger with fewer than 100 laps to go.
“Then I got together with the 47 (Allmendinger) and we were down two laps,” Blaney said. “At about the half way part of the race there wasn't much to feel positive about but the team kept working and battling and we ended up with a decent finish."
Steady pit work and a wave-around after the ninth caution of the race put the No. 21 back on the lead lap and in position to race to the 13th position by the time the checkered flag flew over the track that’s “Too Tough to Tame.”
“To come back and finish on the lead lap at one of the longest races of the year after all that, I’m really proud of where this group is right now,” Bullins said. “I feel like we had a much better car than 13th but we had to fight to get there. We should have had an opportunity to show more.”
The finish is Blaney’s 12th top 15 of the season and the 17th top 20 in 25 races in 2016.
With one race to go before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins in Chicago, Blaney is 17th in the driver points standings and needs a win at the series’ next race to qualify for the series’ playoffs. The tour’s next stop is Richamond International Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, Sept. 10 when the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 will be wearing SKF colors.
Ford Performance PR