Ordinarily, running in fifth position with 10 laps to go in a Sprint Cup race would be a good thing. But for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, that odd-numbered position meant having to restart on the inside lane. It was a big disadvantage, leading to lost positions on two late-race restarts with Blaney finishing 11th on a day that otherwise was a strong one for his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
“It was good until the end,” Blaney said. “We should have run fifth, easy.”
He said Bristol’s bottom lane just isn’t the place to be.
“You can't go anywhere on the bottom,” he said. “If you're lucky enough to restart on the top, then you’ll move forward even if you're a terrible race car.”
“We had a good race car and got stuck on the bottom for three straight restarts and went backward. That's pretty disappointing when you know you have a top-five race car.”
After starting 18th, Blaney was rarely out of the top 15, in the top 10 for much of the race and as high as second place at one point.
“We could do a lot of stuff,” Blaney said. “We got it better throughout the day. Unfortunately, it didn't play out for us.”
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that despite the late-race loss of positions he was proud of his team’s efforts in recording its third finish of 11th or better in the eight races so far this season.
"We came into Bristol wanting a good, solid finish,” he said. “It would have been good to finish the race in fifth place, but it’s a good sign of this team’s potential.”
Wood said Blaney did a great job behind the wheel. The pit stops were spot-on and crew chief Jeremy Bullins made solid strategy calls from the pit box, including his decision to make the final stop with 88 laps to go.
“It was the right call,” Wood said. “The race just didn’t play out at the end like we needed it to.”
Blaney, who is now 19th in the Sprint Cup driver standings, and the Wood Brothers, who are 19th in owner’s points, get back to work this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, where Blaney has never competed in a Sprint Cup car. But he does have four Xfinity Series starts there, all of which resulted in top-10 finishes including last fall when he finished fourth.