Blaney Looking To Score The Wood Brothers’ 100th Victory

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head to Bristol Motor Speedway looking for a strong run to build momentum as Blaney prepares himself to battle for his first championship in NASCAR’s elite division while his Wood Brothers team is seeking its second car owner title.

Many fans know the Woods, NASCAR’s longest continuously operating team, have won 99 Cup races and 117 poles, but few realize the Woods also have an owner’s championship from the 1963 season.

The ’63 season saw Joe Weatherly win his second straight championship by cobbling together a string of nine different car owners through the course of the season. Weatherly, who had driven the Woods’ No. 21 himself in four races in prior seasons, ran a total of 53 races in 1963, winning three of them and scoring 20 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes. But since he ran for so many different owners none of them accumulated as many points as the Woods, who ran 23 races with the No. 21 scoring three wins, 16 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.

The Woods used five drivers – Fred Lorenzen, Tiny Lund, Dave MacDonald, Marvin Panch and team founder Glen Wood.

Lund won the Daytona 500 that year, while Panch won at North Wilkesboro and Wood at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The owner’s championship trophy from 1963 carries the name of Ray Lee Wood, one of the original Wood Brothers crew and a brother of other team members Glen, Leonard, Delano and the late Clay. Ray Lee was a tire changer before retiring from racing in 1965.

Glen Wood said he listed his brother’s name as the car owner in ‘63 to save money.

“You had to buy a different license for the driver and car owner, so instead of buying two in my name I put one in Ray Lee’s,” Wood recalled. “I saved ten dollars by doing it, but ten dollars was a good bit of money back then.

“It was my car, but it’s his name on the trophy.”

If Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were to win the championship this year, Wood will be expecting a much bigger check than he received back in 1963.

“I don’t even remember how much it was,” he said. “But it was nothing like what it pays today.”

The next step on the road to the championship is on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where qualifying for the Night Race is set for 5:45 p.m. on Friday and the 500-lap race is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with TV coverage on NBC.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ryan Blaney Salvages A 15th Place Finish In The Pure Michigan 400

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/SKFteam salvaged a 15th-place finish in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway after a mid-race setback knocked them out a chance to contend for the victory.

Even so, Blaney and his Wood Brothers team gained a spot in the championship standings to 12thplace. More importantly, a race victory by a previous winner (Kyle Larson) secured Blaney and the Motorcraft team a spot in the playoffs, the 10-race run to the championship that begins after three more races.

For the early portions of Sunday’s 400-miler, Blaney and the No. 21 Fusion showed their usual speed.

Blaney started 12th and was running sixth after just one lap. He maintained that spot until pitting for tires.He was 11th at the end of Stage One.

In Stage Two, Blaney worked his way back to sixth place at the finish and collected five bonus points.

It was the 18th time this season that Blaney has scored stage points, and it ran his total for the season to 164.

In the third and final stage, Blaney restarted fifth but received damage to the right front of the No. 21 Motorcraft/SKF Fusion just after the restart. He made an unscheduled pit stop for repairs, and his team spent the rest of the race working to regain the lost ground.

Blaney received the free pass to rejoin the lead lap and then began running good lap times despite the body damage to his car. His team’s strategy was foiled by a late caution, and they took the wave-around late in the race.

Just when it looked as if the No. 21 team was headed for a finish outside the top 15, Blaney gained five spots on a green-white-checkered-flag run and took the 15thposition.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “We had a fast car and things just didn’t work out. We have fast cars every week and that gives us something to look forward to.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood also took heart in the speed of the No. 21 Fusion.

“We had a fast race car early on and had some damage that set us back,” Wood said. “We were honored to have Mr. Edsel Ford II on our pit box again this weekend, and we were hoping to have a better result for him.”

“But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft team will return to work this Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Blaney Dominates Practice, But Will Start 12th At Michigan

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/SKF team were a couple of bobbles away from sweeping the day on Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

Blaney was fastest in practice with a best lap at 203.591 miles per hour. Then in qualifying, he topped the first two rounds with laps at 201.686 mph in the first round and 203.120 mph in the second.

But in the third and final round he had to back off the gas after getting loose in Turn One. From that point on, any hope of winning the pole was lost and he wound up in 12th place after a lap at 201.235 mph.

“I just got loose over there [in Turn One],” Blaney said in his post-qualifying comments. “You lose time in one corner, and you can’t make it up.”

Still, it was the 16th time in 23 tries this season that he’s earned a starting spot of 12th or better.

“I’m proud of the first two rounds,” Blaney said. “We didn’t tighten the car up for the last round.”

And the fast times he turned on Friday have him feeling good about the rest of the Michigan weekend.

“We have good speed in our car,” he said. “Hopefully we should be able to drive up through everybody in the race.”

Team Penske, which shares a technical alliance with the Wood Brothers and their Motorcraft/SKFteam, swept the front row with Brad Keselowski taking the pole and Joey Logano earning the outside pole.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Late Race Fuel Gamble For Blaney Comes Up A Couple Laps Short

Ryan Blaney
With their win earlier this season at Pocono Raceway assuring them of a playoff berth, Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team took a gamble on winning at Watkins Glen but came a couple of laps short on fuel.

Blaney was leading with three laps to go when the engine in his No. 21 Fusion began sputtering, so he ducked on to pit road for a splash of fuel. Nonetheless, he was able to score an eighth place finish, his best-ever result on a road course in NASCAR’s elite series.

Team co-owner Len Wood said he was proud of Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins for coming so close to his team’s 100th career Cup victory.

“We took a shot at winning rather than saving fuel and finishing about fourth,” Wood said.

“That’s a fair gamble.

“We needed to run about 36 and a half laps on fuel. I thought we’d be OK, but we burned a little more fuel than we thought.

“I was proud of the whole team. Ryan drove a really good race, and Jeremy called a good race.”

Blaney qualified 16th and got his first big break when Bullins called him to pit road with three laps remaining in the first 20-lap Stage. That meant Blaney would have no chance of scoring stage points in the first stage, but the strategy set him up to advance through the field when the rest of the leaders made pit stops.

When the pit stops cycled through, Blaney wound up in fourth place at the end of Stage Two, earning seven bonus points.

It was the 17th time in the 22 races so far that he’s scored stage points, and Sunday’s bonus points ran his total for the season to 159.

With the track position gained by Bullins’ early move, Blaney ran among the leaders for the remainder of the race, which was slowed by cautions just three times, two of which were for the end of the first two stages.

He stopped for fuel and tires with 37 laps remaining and returned to the track in fourth place.

As drivers ahead of him stopped for fuel, Blaney inherited the lead with four laps remaining. But he ran dry too, handing the lead back to eventual winner Martin Truex Jr.

Even with the late stop, Blaney wound up eighth at the finish.

“I am pretty proud of the effort,” said Blaney, who remains 12th in the championship standings with four regular season races still to run. “We got up front at the beginning of the day and stayed there pretty much all day. I thought our strategy was right and we had a good race car.

“Things just didn’t work out for us. That is just the way it goes sometimes.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft team now head back to Michigan International Speedway, where in his most recent race there he was in contention to win before a late-race incident dropped him from the top five to a 25th-place finish.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

High Speed Watkins Glen Should Suit Ryan Blaney’s Style

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be back on the road this weekend, road racing at historic Watkins Glen in New York.

The Wood Brothers and their No. 21 Fords have a history of running well at the Glen. In their first trip there, back in 1965, the late Marvin Panch took the lead on Lap 12 and led the remaining 53 laps to take the victory over Ned Jarrett, Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough.

NASCAR left the Glen after that race and didn’t return until 1986, when Kyle Petty drove the Woods’ car to a ninth-place finish. In 1991, Dale Jarrett finished fifth in the No. 21, and the next year, Morgan Shepherd scored a runner-up finish in the No. 21 behind Kyle Petty, who drove for Felix Sabates at that time.

Michael Waltrip had a seventh-place finish in 1996, and Ricky Rudd was eighth in 2004.

In 2008, Marcos Ambrose drove from the 43rd starting position to third at the finish.

The Woods did not compete at the Glen again until last year when their current driver, Ryan Blaney, finished 19th in his Glen debut.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he expects Blaney to be much improved at the Glen this year.

“Ryan finished ninth at Sonoma earlier this year, and Watkins Glen, with its higher speeds, probably suits his driving style better,” Wood said. “I think a top-10 finish is a reasonable goal, and of course it would be good to get some stage points as well. With this being a road race anything can happen given the different strategies that will be used.”

Blaney has been able to finish in the top 10 at the end of at least one the first two stages in 16 of the 21 races so far this season, thereby earning 152 bonus points that likely will be key factors in the final points standings.

He has earned points in both of the first two stages in 11 races and has three stage wins including a victory in the first Pocono race.

“Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusions have qualified well and had speed all year,” Wood said.

“We’re looking for another strong performance on Sunday.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Fender Bender Ruins Blaney’s Day At Pocono

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team got off to a fast start on Sunday at the Pocono Raceway. Blaney qualified fifth for the 400-mile run, then finished the first 50-lap Stage in fifth place, earning six bonus points.

But 10 laps into Stage Two, Blaney was involved in a fender-bender just after a restart. The damage to the right front of the No. 21 Fusion wasn’t race-ending, but it did require two trips to pit road for repairs.

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team lost two laps in the process and were unable to overcome the setback. He finished 30th, still two laps behind. Nonetheless, he remains 12th in the championship points standings.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said the varying pit strategies employed by lead-lap teams at Pocono effectively took away any chance of his team taking the wave-around and regaining a lost lap.

“It almost worked at the end of Stage Two, but some of the leaders pitted before the end of the stage and then didn’t pit when the caution flag flew, so we were trapped two laps down,” he said.

Wood pointed out that even after the repairs, the No. 21 Fusion was running good lap times.

“The car was fast even after the damage,” he said. “We just didn’t have the opportunity to get caught up.”

Sunday’s race was the first of three this season that will see qualifying and the race on the same day, the other two being at Watkins Glen and Martinsville Speedway. Wood said he was encouraged by the fan reaction to the new format.

“There was a good crowd here, especially in the infield and on pit road before the race,” he said. “It just didn’t work out for us like we had hoped it would, especially after winning here last month.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team now head to Watkins Glen where the team will get the fifth pick of pit stalls based on their qualifying results from Pocono.

“That’s a little bonus that we wouldn’t have gotten without the new format,” Wood said.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ryan Blaney Going For A Rare Pocono Sweep

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head back to Pocono Raceway this weekend hoping for a repeat of their performance there on June 11 when Blaney scored his first career Cup win and the Wood Brothers’ 99th.

A sweep of the season’s races at Pocono isn’t all that uncommon. Bobby Allison did it in 1982, Bill Elliott followed in 1985, the late Tim Richmond did it in 1986, as did Bobby Labonte in 1999, Jimmie Johnson in 2004, Denny Hamlin in 2006 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014.

“If we were to pull it off on Sunday that would put us in a pretty nice group to be in,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion.

Wood pointed out that also in Blaney’s favor is his strong run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday as Indianapolis and Pocono have similar characteristics including long straightaways and low banking in the turns.

“We had a really fast car at Indy,” Wood said. “We didn’t get the finish we thought we could have there, so we’d like to have a good run and get some points at Pocono.”

With the two Pocono races being just a few weeks apart, the notes from June should apply this time around as well, which gives crew chief Jeremy Bullins a chance to apply what he learned in June as well as what worked well at Indianapolis on Sunday.

Wood cautioned that there are few sure things in the sport, and there’s no guarantee that the No. 21 Fusion will be as fast as it was last month.

“For whatever reason, the second Pocono race is usually different from the first,” he said.

One major difference is in the weekend schedule.

The opening practice session is Saturday at 9 a.m., and the second and final “Happy Hour” practice is at 11:30 on Saturday. Then on Sunday morning, qualifying begins at 11:30 a.m., and the race is scheduled to begin just after 3 p.m. with TV coverage for both qualifying and the race on NBCSN.

About Motorcraft

Motorcraft® offers a complete line of replacement parts that are recommended and approved by Ford Motor Company. From routine maintenance to under-hood repairs, Motorcraft parts offer exceptional value with the highest quality and right fit at competitive prices. Motorcraft parts are available nationwide at Ford and Lincoln dealers, independent distributors and automotive parts retailers are backed by Ford Motor Company’s two-year, unlimited-miles Service Parts Limited Warranty. Ask for Motorcraft by name when you visit your local auto parts store or your favorite service facility. For more information, visit www.motorcraft.com.

 

About Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers

Ford’s Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center offers routine vehicle maintenance such as oil and filter changes, light repair services including brake repair, and tire replacements on all vehicle makes and models. With more than 800 locations and growing, customers can visit www.quicklane.com to find a center that is closest to them, print savings coupons and review maintenance tips to keep their vehicles running at peak efficiency. This site includes information on how to spot tire wear, how to jump-start a battery and even a series of tips to improve a vehicle’s fuel economy.
Wood Brothers Racing

Wood Brothers Racing was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team and one of the winningest teams in NASCAR history. Since its founding, the team won 99 races (including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades) and 117 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series. Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. Glen’s brother, Leonard, is known for inventing the modern pit stop. The team currently runs the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney in the famous No. 21 racecar.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Penske Set To Expand To A Three Car Team In 2018

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske announced today that Ryan Blaney will join the organization as a full-time driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) beginning in 2018 as the team returns to a three-car operation in NASCAR’s premier series. The 23-year-old Blaney, who also signed a multi-year contract extension with the team, will pilot the No. 12 Ford Fusion, beginning with the annual non-points “Clash” event at Daytona International Speedway in February. 

 “For some time now, we have wanted to bring Ryan in to run a third car for us, but things just needed to make sense from a timing and business perspective,” said Roger Penske.  “We have been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team. The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”

 Blaney made his MENCS debut in 2014 for Team Penske and has driven for Wood Brothers Racing full-time the last two seasons. One of NASCAR’s rising “young guns,” Blaney earned his first-career Cup Series win earlier this season at Pocono Raceway, giving the Wood Brothers team its first MENCS win since the 2011 season. Blaney also scored his first Cup Series pole this season at Kansas Speedway. He finished second in the 2016 MENCS Rookie of the Year standings.

 Blaney has been a part of Team Penske since 2012 and has earned five NASCAR XFINITY Series wins for the team and was part of the No. 22 team’s three-straight NXS Owners’ Championships from 2013-2015.

 “This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney, a third-generation driver from High Point, NC. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. I’ve had some great moments with both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers over the last few years. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without Roger (Penske), Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me. I’m thrilled knowing that Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul (Menard) will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”

 Earlier this season, Team Penske announced that it signed Joey Logano to a multi-year contract through the 2022 season and beyond. Just yesterday, the team announced it has come to terms with Brad Keselowski for a multi-year agreement, giving the organization a solid foundation for the future.

 While the No. 12 Ford Fusion has made a handful of starts in the Cup Series over the last few years, Team Penske has not competed as a full-time, three-car team since the 2010 season with Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. Despite the fact that the team has only run two full-time cars since the 2011 season, Team Penske has produced 40 MENCS victories, along with the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series title, and the 2015 Daytona 500 Championship.

 More details surrounding the No. 12 team, including sponsorship and crew chief, will be announced in the near future.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The 2017 “Silly Season” Is Now In Full Swing

Matt Kenseth

The announcement of Erik Jones as the replacement for Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota by Joe Gibbs Racing could be the first in a multitude of driver moves for the 2018 Cup season.

There are many drivers, sponsors and teams whose plans for next year have yet to be put to paper, solidified, and published.

Here is a rundown of who could be headed where and with whom:

ANNOUNCED RIDES

Erik Jones will be in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota, thus forcing Matt Kenseth out of the JGR stable of drivers, and a free agent for 2018.  This fact we know for sure!

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

No. 88: Team owner Rick Hendrick hasn’t revealed what direction he will go to fill the HMS No. 88 for 2018, telling reporters at Daytona there was no timetable for naming Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s replacement.  Rick Hendrick has a few options for this team, he could hire Matt Kenseth to fill in for the short term while his young star, William Byron, gets another year of experience in the Xfinty Series.  He could also stick young Alex Bowman in this ride in the interim as well, or put him in the JR Motorsports No . 9 if Byron is promoted to Cup.

–No. 5: This car virtually has no sponsorship announced for next season, and Kasey Kahne’s status is uncertain. It is believed that Kahne is under contract to HMS through the end of 2018, with HMS carrying the option.  With Kanhe not being very productive throughout his stint with HMS, Hendrick would very easily terminate that contract and move in another direction with a new driver, possibly Kenseth, or HMS’ test driver, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, or possibly Paul Menard.

Is appears that Hendrick Motorsports seems committed to remaining a four-car team next year.

No. 77: Jones is returning to Joe Gibbs Racing after one season in Furniture Row Racing’s new car. Team owner Barney Visser said after Kentucky that “we have nothing concrete. … Our hope is to have two cars.” 5-hour Energy has an option to return in 2018 and can’t leave for another team. There is speculation Furniture Row Racing might move 5-hour Energy to the 78 with Martin Truex Jr., which would seem to leave this ride’s future in doubt.

If Visser is to keep the No. 77 viable and functioning, then the driver selected to fill the slot would have to bring turn-key sponsorship with him to Denver!

No. 10: Sponsorship has yet to be announced for next season, and Danica Patrick’s contract is in its last year with the team.  With the trouble securing proper sponsorship for Patrick this year, it would appear that the interest in Danica Patrick by corporate America is declining.  Therefore, the SHR No. 10 may have a different driver in the cockpit in 2018, and if Cole Custer is promoted to Cup, a different number as well.  Custer has been using the 00 number on his NCWTS and NXS rides, which was one of the numbers that Gene Haas has used when he started up his Cup team.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing is facing a sponsorship problem.  NASCAR and SHR sponsor Monster is mulling whether to return as a team sponsor in addition to its series title sponsorship. Monster must inform NASCAR within the next few months if it’s picking up the option on its series title sponsorship (which is a two-year deal with a two-year option). Co-owner Gene Haas has indicated Stewart-Haas Racing wants to stay at four cars. But if sponsorship isn’t there, contraction could become an option for the team.

No. 2: The news on whether Brad Keselowski will be re-signed to a Team Penske contract has not been revealed yet.  If he were to leave, Miller Lite is expected to stay and is said to like Ryan Blaney as a possible replacement driver (whose social media persona and youth would seem a good fit for a beer company).

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Brad Keselowski: Still hasn’t re-signed with Team Penske. There are conflicting reports on whether the deal is virtually done or negotiations are at an impasse. The sticking point is believed to be more support from Ford for his Brad Keselowski Racing truck team, similar to the way in which Toyota Racing Development helps subsidize Kyle Busch Motorsports’ trucks. (Keselowski sparked an interesting discussion last week by saying that NASCAR needs more manufacturers.)

Matt Kenseth: Is out at Joe Gibbs Racing but wants to remain in a championship-caliber ride. Hendrick’s Nos. 88 or 5 seems the most likely landing spots, and he has a good friend in Dale Earnhardt Jr. to lobby on his behalf. Stewart-Haas Racing seems as if could be a possibility to fill either the No.41 or the No.10 rides.

—William Byron: Hendrick Motorsports has gauged the 19-year-old’s comfort level about a promotion to Cup. Rick Hendrick and Axalta (which has sponsored Byron in Xfinity races and likes his personality and potential) would like to move him up.

Kurt Busch: The 2017 Daytona 500 winner said at Daytona he is waiting for Stewart-Haas Racing to pick up his contract option and was optimistic that it would because “I deliver for the team.” Also mentioned there were many “moving parts” involving Monster and NASCAR.

Kasey Kahne: Has a deal through next season, but the team controls the option to keep him, and it’s widely thought it could be his last year at Hendrick.  If this is his last year at HMS then he too could be a key player in the silly season.

Ryan Blaney: Roger Penske said recently he wants to bring Blaney into the fold as early as next season, possibly in a third full-time car (or perhaps in the No. 2 if Keselowski were to leave).

Danica Patrick: In her final year with Stewart-Haas Racing. She said last month she intends to drive next season, but the sponsorship uncertainty leaves her status murky for next year.  Looking at the sponsorship difficulties have have prevailed for her this year, Patrick may be forced out of the NASCAR arena in 2018.

Alex Bowman: If Hendrick goes young, he possibly could be in play for the No. 5 if the team puts Byron in the No. 88. Also in play for the No. 9 at JR Motorsports if Byron goes to Cup.

Paul Menard: Hasn’t been announced as returning to Richard Childress Racing, and the Menards sponsorship could be on the move (it already sponsors Team Penske in the IndyCar Series).  However, as long as his father, John Menard, wants to write the big check, Paul will have a ride with some team.

Aric Almirola: He hasn’t been announced yet as returning to RPM next season. Almirola has been tied closely to sponsor Smithfield, which also had been mulling a move in its contract year, but which just had a key decision-maker leave.

GMS Racing/Spencer Gallagher: The team is mulling a move next season to Cup from the Xfinity Series. At Kentucky, Gallagher told SiriusXM that racing in Cup “definitely is a subject that has been broached, and we’ve put a lot of thought into it. We’ve always known that is our long-term goal to be racing in Cup. We’re looking at different ways we might do it and different times in which it would be best. It’s still in the formative stages.”

It is July, just barely past the the halfway point of the season, and “The Silly Season” is now in full swing.  The aforementioned drivers and teams is just the tip of the iceberg that may come into play as the 2017 season shifts into high gear.  There is no doubt that there may be a few more players, teams as well as drivers, that will be put into play before the season ends at Homestead.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Holds Of The Hard Charging Ryan Blaney In The ALSCO 300

Kyle Busch
As Kyle Busch spun his No. 18 Toyota wildly during his celebratory burnout at Kentucky Speedway, the right rear tire exploded with an audible pop after it hit the drain below the apron.

It was an astute call by crew chief Eric Phillips that enabled Busch’s tires to survive long enough to win Saturday afternoon’s rain-delayed Alsco 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the 1.5-mile track.

In effect, Phillips was the architect of Busch’s second victory this season, his fourth at Kentucky and the 88th of his career, extending his own series record. Busch, the pole winner, was leading on Lap 129, when the engine in Joey Gase’s No. 52 Chevrolet blew up in Turn 3, dumping fluid on the track to necessitate the seventh caution of the afternoon.

That’s when Phillips, thinking several moves ahead, opted for four tires. Busch lost six positions to teams that opted for two-tire stops, but by Lap 148 he had passed Joey Logano, who had two runs on his left-side tires, for the third position.

The four-tire call enabled Busch to stay on the track and inherit the lead when Ray Black Jr.’s crash in Turn 2 brought out the eighth and final caution on Lap 167. Busch remained out front the rest of the way and got some help when Ryan Blaney, whose No. 12 Ford was arguably the fastest car in the race, was penalized for a runaway tire during his final pit stop on Lap 168.

“These guys keep getting better, and we just bide our time a little bit as we did today,” Busch said. “We did what we needed to do to be there at the end and gave it our best opportunity there. We took four tires and that kind of got us behind there with two pit stops to go.

“And then some of those guys came in again. Obviously, our car was really fast out front, and once I got in clean air, I didn’t think anybody had anything for us.”

Blaney restarted at the back of the field and charged to second place, passing third-place finisher Erik Jones for the runner-up spot on the final lap. But Blaney ran out of time where the win was concerned and crossed the finish line 1.097 seconds behind Busch, who won from the pole for the 35th time.

“We got it really good at the end,” Blaney said ruefully. “We were good all day. I thought we were the best car all day, personally. Before that last caution. I thought we were going to get by the 20 (Jones) and set sail. The caution came out and we were debating on whether to pit or not.

“It’s easy to look back on it now and say that we should have stayed out and seen what happened. I thought the right call was to pit, and we just had a violation. That stings. It almost stings worse running all the way up there and finishing second than if we would have finished 10th or something.”

Kevin Harvick, who stayed on track with Busch for the final restart, held onto fourth place. Ty Dillon ran fifth, followed by Logano and William Byron. Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick completed the top 10.

There was no shortage of action from the outset of Saturday’s race. As the cars reached the start/finish line for the initial green flag, the field bunched up, and the cars of Brendan Gaughan, Black Koch, Brandon Jones, Ryan Reed and Michael Annett were damaged in the resulting melee.

Jones fell out immediately, Gaughan was eliminated by a subsequent accident on Lap 7, and Reed dropped out after 55 laps because of overheating. Annett and Koch were able to continue and finished 16th and 23rd, respectively, but those opening moments set the tone for wild restarts that would follow.

Series leader Elliott Sadler ran 12th and maintained a 45-point edge over second-place Byron, who fell short in his attempt to win a third straight race.

Check out the unofficial results of the ALSCO 300.

 TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!