Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team unloaded another fast Ford Fusion at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday. They set the pace in final practice for the second-straight week and earned the 10th starting spot for Saturday’s Night Race.
It was the 16th time in 24 races this season that Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have qualified in the top 10.
Blaney was fourth fastest in the opening practice session with a lap at 128.917 miles per hour. Then, for the second-straight week he set the pace in final practice, this time turning a lap at 128.554 mph.
In qualifying, Blaney was ninth fastest in the opening round with a lap at 128.142 mph, then seventh in the second round with a lap at 127.758 mph before running 126.854 mph in the third round to secure the 10th starting spot.
“I’d like to be nine spots better, but I think our car was pretty decent,” Blaney said. “We lost a little bit of speed going into qualifying, which kind of stinks, but we still got a pretty decent starting spot for the race.”
“We can see the front, and I think our race car was fairly decent today. Hopefully, we’ll make some good changes and we’ll see where this Xfinity race goes in terms of the line and stuff, and then go from there.”
The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion will carry a special decal this weekend to honor the memory of long-time crew member Butch Moricle, who passed away unexpectedly on Aug.15 at the age of 65.
Moricle, a first cousin of current team owners Eddie and Len Wood and their sister Kim Wood Hall and nephew of family matriarch Bernece Wood, has been a member of the Wood Brothers crew since 1972, when he came on board to help the team get two cars prepared for the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Moricle worked on the second car, a No. 41 Mercury which A.J. Foyt drove to a fourth-place finish. David Pearson, in the familiar No. 21, was third.
Moricle became a full-time employee in 1985 when the team first went full-time racing. He’s been with the Wood Brothers since and most recently worked on the restoration of cars from the team’s early days.
His first replica race car project was in 1996, when he worked on a 1937 Ford called the Backseater. In 2012, he helped build a 1963 Galaxie like Tiny Lund’s Daytona 500 winner.
The next year he worked on a 1961 Starliner like the one Glen Wood raced.
For the past two years he restored a 1962 Starlift like Marvin Panch drove, and was working on a 1954 Ford replica at the time of his death.
“We’re really going to miss him, he and I were born in the same hospital one day apart.” Eddie Wood said. “He was a really, really good machinist, fabricator and mechanic.”
“When he first came to work for us we didn’t have enough parts to have two cars ready to race. It was kind of a last-minute deal for A.J. to drive for us, and Butch made a lot of the money parts that we needed to get the second car ready.”
Eddie and Len Wood plan to attend Moricle’s funeral Saturday morning in Stuart, Va., then travel to Bristol for the Night Race, which is set to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. with TV coverage on NBC.