Young Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Has Strong Run at Vegas

Three weeks into their first full-time Sprint Cup season since 2008, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team faced one of its toughest tests yet in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The team, led by rookie driver Ryan Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins, passed with flying colors as they wound up with a sixth-place finish, the team’s best performance this year.

The Vegas race – and the current season – is different than those in recent years. Decisions by Blaney on the track and by Bullins on the pit box now are made with the bigger picture in mind – the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the series championship.

Instead of being in a position to simply try to finish as high as possible and win races, as it was in its limited-schedule era, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team now finds itself competing against the Cup circuit’s top teams. And from the Daytona 500 on, all of them are racing with the Chase in mind.

Blaney, who raced in the top-10 for most of Sunday’s 400-mile race, was running alongside championship-winning drivers from the sport’s top teams, while Bullins was matching wits with their crew chiefs.

On top of that, Blaney is in a tight battle with a group of fellow rookies including Chase Elliott, who took over the car previously driven by four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

Leaving Las Vegas, Blaney is 14th in the driver standings, just 16 points out of 10th place.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said all of that makes Sunday’s sixth-place finish mean a lot more than it would have back when the team was running a limited schedule “This is important going forward,” he said. “It gives us momentum going into Phoenix and puts us in a good place in points.”

Wood said Blaney’s contributions to the overall effort have been a pleasure to watch.

“He’s on top of his game,” Wood said. “He’s learning every week and doing it at tracks where he’s never run a Sprint Cup car. By the end of practice the past two weeks he’s been comfortable in the car and giving the crew good direction about what the car needs.”

Bullins and the rest of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew have stepped up as well.

“Jeremy made great calls all day at Las Vegas,” Wood said. “He took four tires when needed and took two tires at exactly the right time too.”

“And after about fifteen laps of a green-flag run, our car would really start to come in and gain speed, which is a testament to Jeremy and the crew’s ability to set it up.”

In the final laps of the Kobalt 400, both race winner Brad Keselowski and his fellow Team Penske driver Joey Logano were able to pass race leader Kyle Busch and take the top two positions. With Blaney’s finish, Ford drivers took half of the top-six finishing positions, and all were in Ford Fusions using Team Penske technology and equipment.

“That really shows how well our relationship with Team Penske is working,” Wood said.

“Congratulations to Brad and Joey on their great finishes.”

Now it’s off to Phoenix International Raceway, where the Woods haven’t raced since 2011 and where Blaney has never driven a Cup car.

“It’ll be another challenge for us,” Wood said. “But we’re looking forward to it.”

“Now that we’re doing this every week, we can’t wait to get to the next race.”

“We’re enjoying being a part of the championship battle and racing for a spot in the Chase.”