Ryan Blaney’s victory in Sunday’s 400-miler at Pocono Raceway will likely go down in NASCAR history as one for the ages, and for all ages.
It was the first Cup victory for the 23-year-old driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion and the 99th for his Wood Brothers team.
The combination of Blaney, one of the sport’s future superstars, and the Wood Brothers, the sport’s oldest continuously competing team, produced a victory that was popular with the sport’s older fans and with its younger, newer ones.
The reaction from the NASCAR world was swift and loud. The crowd at Pocono cheered wildly when Blaney surged past an aggressively blocking Kyle Busch to take the lead with 10 laps remaining then cheered even more as he held off the veteran Kevin Harvick over the final eight laps to secure the Woods’ first victory since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in 2011 aboard the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion.
Immediately after the race, congratulations to the Woods and to Blaney began appearing on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. They came from competitors and drivers from other manufacturers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. Similar congratulatory messages were posted from fellow Ford drivers like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
IN the winners’ post-race interview session, team co-owner Eddie Wood pointed out that the victory, and the strong performance of the No. 21 team all season, wouldn’t be possible without the support of Motorcraft and Quick Lane and the alliance with Team Penske.
“Given our alliance with Team Penske that is second to none, that just really makes a big difference,” Wood said. “Jeremy [Bullins] came over to be a crew chief, and it just all worked out.
“Blaney is on his way now. He outran two guys today that are champions. They're at the top of their game, and to outrun them to win a race here, at one of the toughest tracks that we go to, I'm really, really proud of him.
“He’s here. He's arrived now.”
Besides the positive impact on the future of the sport that likely will come from Blaney’s victory, there also were elements of Sunday’s victory that reminded Wood Brothers fans of the glory days of yesteryear.
Among the reminders were radio issues for much of the race that caused the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team to resort to old-school communication methods like hand signals between driver and crew. Blaney could hear the crew, but the crew couldn’t hear him.
“It was just like us going back to the old days with no radios,” Wood said. “We used to have a piece of gray tape on the dash that would have roof loose, door push, and that's what you went by. It just kind of took me back, and then right there at the end, the way [Blaney] was trying to get away from Harvick and dropping down to the inside like that, Neil Bonnett did that in 1980 here, and went on to win the race.
“It was just like I had flashbacks. It was really cool.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, now in good position to claim a spot in the 10-race, season-ending playoffs, return to Michigan International Speedway, home track of Ford Motor Company.
For the FireKeepers Casino 400, the iconic No. 21 will carry the colors of Omnicraft, Ford’s newest, all-makes, all-models parts brand.