Mother Nature cooperated with the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team on Friday at Michigan International Speedway. Threatening skies stayed clear long enough for Ryan Blaney to earn a starting spot – and a good fifth-place one – for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400.
On Sunday, she wasn’t as helpful. Rains throughout the day plagued the 400-mile race at the home track of Ford Motor Company, washing away the best-laid plans of many a race team, including the Wood Brothers and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
Blaney lined up in the third row for the start of the race and was able to maintain that position through two early runs, both of which were cut short by showers. Later on, he dropped back just outside the top 10 and was able to maintain his spot there until debris on the grille of his No. 21 Ford Fusion necessitated a trip to pit road under the green flag.
Between the rain and the timing of the ensuing caution periods, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was unable to use either the wave-around or any other strategy to regain the lost lap.
“The caution flag just caught us,” explained team co-owner Len Wood. “And we had no chance to use the wave-around because not all the leaders pitted.”
By itself, that wasn’t a major setback. But when a real downpour stopped the race after 276 of the race’s scheduled 400 miles, Blaney was running in 24th place with a car capable of running much higher in the field.
“It's unfortunate we couldn't finish because we wanted to get back up there and finish where we deserved, not 24th,” a disappointed Blaney said after the race.
For Wood, the team’s finishing position didn’t mean the entire weekend was a wash. His team was able to continue its streak of 86 consecutive starts at Michigan. He and his fellow team members were able to spend time with their friends from Ford Motor Company, Ford Performance and Motorcraft, a group that included Edsel B. Ford II.
And during the race, the team’s performance on the track and on pit road was exceptional, Wood said.
“The pit stops went well,” he said. “The engine ran strong even though it got pretty hot when there was debris on the grille, and Ryan and Jeremy [Bullins] did a good job adapting to the circumstances.”
Wood also was pleased with the way NASCAR and track officials responded to one rain delay after another.
“The Air Titans and the jet dryers did an excellent job,” he said.
Even though the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team didn’t get the finish it wanted, Wood left the track with a smile on his face.
“It’s better to run 24th than to be back home watching the race on TV,” he said.
Wood Brothers Racing PR