For the first 250 laps of Sunday’s Camping World 500k at Phoenix International Raceway, Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford were among the race leaders.
Blaney started a Cup-career-best second and ran in the top 10 through the first two 75-lap stages of the race, earning seven championship points between the two stages.
But along the way, the adjuster that allows the driver to adjust the track bar from the driver’s seat malfunctioned, putting Blaney at a disadvantage as the laps rolled by in a green-flag run. Unable to adjust to the wearing tires and changing track conditions, he faded as the laps went by each run. And, it seemed that almost every time there was a restart, including the initial start, he was lined up on the inside lane, which was not the preferred groove.
On a caution-flag pit stop just after a lap 257 crash by Cole Whitt, Blaney was caught speeding on pit road, which dropped him from 13th to 26th in the running order and made an already difficult situation even more challenging.
He regained several positions and was working on moving into the top 20 before the race’s final caution for a crash by Joey Logano set up a two-lap overtime finish.
Blaney opted for four fresh tires during the final caution period, and the positions lost on pit road during that stop set him back once again, leading to a 23rd-place finish.
“There was a lot of craziness out there,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “I thought our car was OK in the beginning, and we were trying to get it better.”
“About halfway through the race our track-bar [adjuster] stopped working, which was bad. That really hurt us. That really hurt from being able to adjust our car throughout the run. That is what we needed. We take for granted those things.”
“Then I sped on pit road, and that put us in a bigger hole. We had an issue, and then I compounded the issue by speeding and you can’t have that. I made a mistake on that deal. We will just have to go on to Fontana and see what we’ve got.”
Blaney remains sixth in the Cup standings heading into this weekend’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.