Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, 40 races into their time together in the Sprint Cup Series, had one of their best efforts yet in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. The rookie Blaney and his team, led by rookie crew chief Jeremy Bullins, overcame an early flat tire and damage to the hood of the No. 21 Ford Fusion to finish fourth, tying their career-best finish from Talladega Superspeedway a year ago.
Bouncing back from a disappointing end to the race at Bristol Motor Speedway the week before, Blaney qualified seventh and raced in or around the top five all afternoon at Michigan.
They did so despite an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire at Lap 42, a flat that left a small hole in the hood of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. With much of the race running under the green flag, and most pit stops occurring under green, Bullins elected to not spend the time repairing the car.
The call paid off, as Blaney was able to maintain his spot near the front despite the damage.
Then, when a caution flag flew with 13 laps remaining and Blaney running fourth but riding on older tires, Bullins opted to stay on the track and maintain the track position. That was a difficult decision as others running just behind Blaney stopped for fresh rubber.
On the restart and final run to the checkered flag, Blaney held his ground and scored his second top-five finish of the season and his seventh top-10 of the year.
Blaney said the outcome could have been even better if some of his fellow drivers had been able to get up to speed more quickly on the last restart.
“It is unfortunate it didn’t work out the best it could have,” he said. “[Restarts] are always crazy. Everyone is pushing to get the most they can. All you can do is hold on.”
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s proud of every member of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
“This was one of our best races since we’ve been together,” Wood said. “Ryan did a great job, especially realizing what the trouble was when he had that flat tire.”
“He got on pit road, and we got it fixed, and it didn’t hurt us a bit.”
“Jeremy made some great calls that I’m glad I didn’t have to make. That one at the end of the race to stay on the track was a tough one, but it was the right decision.”
“And the pit crew was just amazing. Every stop they made was in the 11-second range, and that’s really commendable.”
Wood also said that a good run was made even more special by it coming at the home track of Ford Motor Company and with Edsel Ford II and Henry Ford III on the team’s pit box.
“It’s always an honor to have them on the box with us, but it’s rewarding to have a strong run with them there to share it with us.”
Blaney said a good, solid run is just what the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team needs.
“These are the days this team deserves,” he said. “We always want to win in Ford’s backyard but we will go on to Darlington and try to get it done there.”
For the Southern 500, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion will carry a throwback paint scheme honoring David Pearson and his dominating 1976 season that saw him drive the No. 21 to 10 major victories including the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!