Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team battled back from a bad re-start after the first caution of the race to finish 17th in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
When that first caution flag flew on lap 13, Blaney had moved up a position from his sixth starting spot. His pit crew decided to leave him out on the track while many competitors went in for fresh tires. The move put him up to second place.
When the green flag flew again, Blaney went backward, all the way back to 31st.
"I was terrible,” Blaney said after crawling out of the car after the race. “I don't know what happened there. It was embarrassing how bad that was. I got caught off guard and that hurt us.”
While working his way back through the field, Blaney had to navigate around a lap 45 accident between Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Aric Almirola, which happened in front of him.
“You do the best you can and hope you don't get run into from behind,” he explained. “I was into the brakes pretty hard there and we were lucky we didn't get rear ended."
Wood Brothers Racing’s iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion benefitted from some good pit work to get the car to 12th after 90 laps and was scored in eighth during a wave of green-flag pit stops.
"We made up some time there but we couldn't get higher than 12th,” he said. “We'd be OK for a couple of laps then start fading.”
The 17th-place finish caps an exciting week for Blaney and his team, which announced it would run a full, 36-race schedule in 2016. The week also included a strong qualifying effort on Friday with runs of 176.005 mph (P14), 175.575 mph (P9) and 175.143 mph that put Blaney in the sixth starting position.
But for Blaney, he was able to race with his boyhood hero Jeff Gordon in the four-time NASCAR champion’s final race.
"I was a big fan of Jeff Gordon growing up,” Blaney said. “You're obviously honored to be in his last race with him and I got to race around him a little bit at the beginning of the race. I was having trouble passing him. I was trying to be as nice as I could and let him race his own deal. But that was fun racing hard with him there.
"When I was racing with him I thought it was his last race and he's racing for the championship and you don't want to jeopardize his championship,” he continued. “You don't want to race him too hard and put him in a bad spot. You want to let him race for the championship. I was more concerned with his running for the championship than the fact that it was his last race."
Blaney and the Wood Brothers will begin their first full-season run for the NASCAR Sprint Cup next February at the Daytona 500.
Ford Performance PR