Ryan Blaney showed strength on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Blaney started the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 in second and took home a 12th-place finish. Despite the result, Blaney dominated most of the race at the 1.5-mile oval.
Kevin Harvick, who started on the pole after being fastest in all three rounds of qualifying on Friday, led the first 15 laps of the race. On lap 16, after a caution that involved three cars, Blaney took the lead on a restart and went on to lead the next 17 laps. He’d go on shuffling in and out from the lead to win stage one of three.
In stage two, Blaney and the No. 21 team led 79 circuits of the 85 laps. After shuffling in and out for the lead, the North Carolina native claimed the second stage victory and earned 10 additional MENCS driver points. With the momentum all throughout the afternoon, it unfortunately wouldn’t continue.
A caution with five laps remaining in stage two of the race forced many teams to make a tough decision of whether to pit. Blaney and the crew decided that they would stay out to try and win the second stage of the event. However, this decision might’ve impacted their day the most.
Pitting after winning stage two, Blaney and the No. 21 crew had a slow stop, causing them to restart 20th for the final stage. They then got backed up because of slower cars and were not able to gain a lot of spots.
“We got jumbled up in [turns one and two] and let a lot of cars get by,” Blaney said after the race. “That was kind of the deciding factor I feel like.”
Despite leading the most laps of any driver and winning both stages, Blaney left Texas Motor Speedway with a 12th-place finish. The driver and crew certainly have momentum as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend.
“I think it says a lot about this Motorcraft/Quick Lane team about how good a car we had today,” Blaney added. “If you had asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have said we would win two stages and have one of the fastest cars.”
The two stage wins in total gave the team 20 driver points and two playoff points. The total point payout for the team at Texas Motor Speedway totaled 45, which moved Blaney from seventh to sixth in the driver standings.
At Bristol, the young driver holds three starts there. Of those three starts, Blaney’s best finish came there in April of 2016 where he took home an 11th-place finish. His first resulted in a 22nd and a 35th last fall there.