Ryan Blaney opened the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season by driving the fuel-starved Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion to second place in the 59th Daytona 500.
Running in 11th place with three laps to go, the Wood Brothers’ driver – in only his third start in the Great American Race – looked like he might have to settle for a top-10 result. Then things started to happen, as they often do at Daytona.
“I tried to make a move with about 10 to go and I didn’t go anywhere,” Blaney said. “We were kind of stuck. Luckily we had the 22 with us and I kind of helped him and he kind of helped me. At the white flag there we got a big run into (turn) one and they kind of all separated and we got a big pull off of that. And then we got to second behind 41 and that kept us going the whole way.
“I thought we had it,” he explained. “I thought we were in the cat bird’s seat with the 41 way out in front and the 47 right behind me and we started sputtering pretty bad there. I’m surprised we made it back (to pit road). With an ounce more of gas we might have won it. I was sputtering and running out of gas the whole straightaway.
“It was a solid day for us,” he said. “We had such a fast car. To go to a back-up car (due to an accident in the Thursday Can-Am Duel) and work so hard on it means a lot for Ford and Motorcraft and Quick Lane. It’s a good start to the season.”
Starting in the rear of the field with the back-up, Blaney quickly moved to the front. He was in the top 20 by lap six, the top 15 by lap 10 and in the top five by lap 26.
“We went up through the middle really well,” Blaney said. “We made up a lot of ground early and that spoke a lot about how fast our car was. That definitely gave us a lot of confidence.”
The ability to join the front runners early in the race allowed Blaney to take advantage of NASCAR’s new stage race format and he picked up eight points for finishing third after the race’s first 60 laps. He collected another point by being in 10th after stage two.
Blaney’s Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford picked up slight damage in a 10-car crash on lap 127. Coming in to get that repaired a few laps later, he was rear-ended and sustained even more damage.
“The team did a great job of fixing the race car and getting it to where we needed it to be to finish the race,” Blaney said.
Starting his second full season behind the wheel of the Wood Brothers’ iconic No. 21, Blaney said he if he couldn’t get the win, he was pleased another Blue Oval (driven by Kurt Busch) took the checkered flag.
“I’m happy we got a Ford in Victory Lane,” he said. “In the first half of the race the Fords were all working together and we looked unbeatable then a wreck took out a bunch of them and we’re the underdogs with just a few of us left.
“It was one of the more-wild 500s I’ve been in,” he added. “A lot of wrecks that took out a bunch of good cars, which you hate to see. There were only a handful of cars out there that looked OK at the end.”
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team now heads to the Atlanta Motor Speedway next week, March 5, for the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500.
Ford Performance PR