Blaney started seventh, and from the drop of the green flag until the checkered flag, he was rarely out of the top-10, and inside the top five for much of the race before finishing a season-best fifth.
His pit crew, led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins, was virtually flawless throughout the race, with Blaney gaining one position on nearly every pit stop.
“That’s the most competitive we’ve been all race long in quite a while,” team co-owner Len Wood said. “Ryan did a great job, and the pit crew was spot-on.”
Blaney said his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion was really fast at the beginning of the race, lost a bit of speed midway through the event and then picked up again at the finish.
“We started off the race really, really good,” he said. “I thought that was when we were strongest, when the sun was up, the track was a little bit hotter.
Then as the night came, it cooled off a little bit, we lost a little bit of speed. I felt like everyone kind of gained grip and got better, and we lost a little bit. It took us a while to try to get that back.”
“We got it closer towards the end there.”
More importantly, he said, he was never far behind the leaders.
“We were up there all day,” he said. “Just a good day for us, good night, something to build off of, for sure.”
One of Blaney’s closest calls of the race came with 25 laps to go when four drivers ahead of him wrecked on a restart. Blaney drove onto the apron of the track to avoid being collected in the wreck, but in doing so did some damage to the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. “It actually hurt the nose a little bit, which was unfortunate,” he said. “But luckily we were able to get by that and move on.”
Blaney was the highest-finishing Ford driver, and his fifth-place finish was a boost for Ford in its efforts to win the Manufacturer’s Championship.
“I like to think we helped make it a good night for Ford,” Wood said.
It also was a good night, points-wise, for Blaney as he moved up two spots to 16th in the Sprint Cup standings.
The team’s performance, its third finish of 11th or better in the past four races, also is a momentum builder heading into the upcoming race at Dover International Speedway, and the following events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which like Kansas is one of the intermediate-length tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.
“We haven’t been to Dover in a while, but Ryan and Jeremy have been there with the Xfinity Series,” Wood said. “We’re looking for a good race at Dover, and we think we’ll have a good package for all the races coming up at Charlotte too.”
Wood and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team also leave Kansas relieved that Blaney’s father Dave Blaney is back at home recovering from a nasty crash in his sprint car at Eldora Speedway Friday night.
“We’re glad Dave’s injuries didn’t turn out to be serious,” he said. “He’s been a big supporter of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, and a big help to Ryan as he adapts to Sprint Cup racing.”
With a night of racing in the books, Wood and his brother Eddie left Kansas on another mission. They boarded a red-eye flight to Concord, N.C., then planned to travel to their hometown of Stuart, Va., for a Mother’s Day cookout with one of the team’s longest serving and most devoted members – their mother, Bernece Wood.
“We’d like to wish our mother, and all the other mothers out there, a very happy Mother’s Day,” Wood said.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!