Monday, Jul 04

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team Looks to Close Out 2016 on High Note

Driver Ryan Blaney, crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team pull into Homestead-Miami Speedway for Ford Championship Weekend and the Ford EcoBoost 400 striving to finish the season on an upswing.

“It always helps doing well in the last race of the year to have good momentum for the next season,” Blaney said. “Miami is one of my favorite places to go. We can run right up against the wall to the bottom lane. That versatility makes it fun.”

Bullins agreed, “It certainly never hurts to end the season on a high note and we believe Homestead is a good track for us to do that.”

There have been plenty of highs and lows throughout Blaney’s first full NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Enough ups and downs to balance out and put him 20th in driver points standings going into the final race of the season.

“The first full season has been a good one,” Blaney said. “It’s been nice to run every week and get experience.

“We were very strong in the beginning and the end of the year,” the 22-year-old driver said. “The middle portion is when we slumped a little.”

So far in 2016, Blaney has driven the Wood Brothers’ iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion to three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Three of those top 10s came on consecutive weekends early in the season at Talladega, Kansas and Dover. He also led eight laps later in the season at Chicagoland and was out front for three trips around Talladega last month.

In addition, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate finished in the top-15 on 18 occasions and in the top-20 in 24 of 35 events.

“If you look at our team as a whole, we are starting to be a consistent top-10 finisher, and that leads to top-five finishes,” Bullins explained. “Once you do that, the opportunities to win will present themselves more often and you can take advantage. Coming off a great finish at Phoenix, having a great car at Texas, and being fast week in and week out, I’m confident in where we are headed and what we have to look forward to this weekend and beyond.”

Unfortunately, The Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew experienced more than its share of wrecks and bad racing luck that relegated the No. 21 to a number of finishes in the back half of the field, eliminating Blaney from Chase contention.

“Those kept us out of the Chase, unfortunately,” Blaney said. “The timing of wrecks and DNFs were bad and that's something that has to change.”

Bullins sees a bright future for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, “I feel like a few races took us out of Chase contention, and I think that would have been cool to be a part of in our first full season together. However, like I’ve said all along, we don’t just want to make the Chase, we want to contend for championships.”

Last year at Homestead, Blaney qualified sixth and finished 17th.

“Homestead is a track where the groove can move around all over the track,” Bullins explained. “You may start a run around the bottom line, move all the way to the wall, then not be able to run the wall and move to the middle lane. Your car has to be versatile enough to do that, and the setup becomes a compromise to do so.”

This will be the 18th start for Wood Brothers Racing at Homestead. So far, the team has two top-10 finishes at the south Florida track.

Blaney also will be running the Team Penske No. 22 Mustang in the XFINITY Series finale at Homestead. Last year, he started and finished that race in fifth.

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