Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team missed out in their quest to earn a starting spot in the Sprint All-Star race, but they can leave Charlotte Motor Speedway with their heads held high after a strong effort in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown.
Rains in the Charlotte area on Friday meant that Blaney and his fellow Showdown participants had to start the race without a single lap of practice, something rarely – if ever – seen on the Sprint Cup circuit.
With the line-up for the first of three segments set by car owner points, Blaney rolled to the green flag in third position, but was soon battling fellow rookie Chase Elliott for the lead.
On a restart with one lap remaining in the opening segment, Blaney was ruled by NASCAR officials to have jumped the restart.
“[Elliott] was spinning his tires on the bottom and [Trevor Bayne] was pushing me, and I was half-throttle on the brakes, and I didn't know what to do,” Blaney said. “I’ve got someone driving me forward and [Elliott] is spinning his tires.”
“I don’t know what I could have done to stop. I really don’t, and we maybe beat him by two feet.”
“It’s such a weird and tricky call to make. It’s a judgment call and it’s unfortunate it bit us, but I think one thing we can look back and be proud of is how fast our car was. It’s a shame we won’t be racing tonight, but it’s definitely something to look forward to next week.”
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s proud of Blaney’s run back to the front. “The one thing you don’t have to worry about is the effort Ryan puts forth. You get it all from lap one to the finish.” Wood said. “Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.”
After being sent to the rear of the pack, Blaney and his Jeremy Bullins-led team really made Wood and the team’s fans proud as he drove his way from 23rd to fifth place in the second 20-lap segment. Blaney continued the charge in the 10-lap finale and finished third.
With only the three segment winners advancing to Saturday night’s All-Star race, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team now turn their attention to next week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
“The way this team unloaded and ran so well without any practice shows just how strong these Ford Fusions are and how much we’re benefiting from the technology we share with Team Penske,” Wood said. “In all my years, I don’t remember starting a race without any practice. We came close in Atlanta back in the 70s, but the weather cleared and we got in a few laps of practice.”
“As good as this worked out today at Charlotte, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen again when rain is a problem.”
Wood said that while he’s disappointed that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team won’t be in the All-Star race, the positives of Saturday morning have him optimistic about the upcoming Coca-Cola 600.
“It would have meant a lot to be in the All-Star race, but knowing we have a good car for the 600 means a lot too,” he said. “And I’m really proud of Ryan, Jeremy and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team for their efforts in the Showdown.”
“Everybody knew we were here.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be back on track at Charlotte next week, with qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. and the race scheduled to start Sunday at 6 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX.