On a night at Daytona International Speedway in which Ford Fusions were the dominant cars, Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion showed speed and skill en route to a 14th-place finish in the Coke Zero 400.
The rookie Blaney started 12th and ran as high as third in the early going, and in the top 10 for most of the race. He dodged two major crashes and a couple of minor ones, and his finish allowed him to move up two spots in the driver points standings to 15th place.
That keeps him in the running for one of the 16 berths in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with nine races left in the 26-race regular season. With Tony Stewart having a race victory but not among the top 16 in points, there are five drivers including Blaney who are currently winless but in position for a Chase berth based on their rankings in the standings.
“We've got nine more races to go to figure that out,” Blaney said. “We just try to go out and do the best we can in those races, and the points will shake out how they do.”
Blaney was more interested in talking about the speed of the Ford Fusions at Daytona, where Brad Keselowski drove a Fusion in delivering team owner Roger Penske his 100th Sprint Cup win.
“It's cool to see Brad win it,” Blaney said. “That's awesome.”
The No. 21 Ford ran just behind the Team Penske Fords of Keselowski and Joey Logano in the early portions of the race, and Blaney was never far from the top 10 the rest of the way. Even when he fell back outside the top 20, he quickly worked his way back into the lead pack.
He missed a 19-car wreck at lap 90, another crash at Lap 149 when Stewart wrecked, then a third incident at Lap 155, which set up an overtime run to the finish.
“We were in a good spot and [Stewart] wrecked,” Blaney said. “He turned in front of us and hurt the right front pretty bad.”
“There just weren't enough laps to go after that to go anywhere. Unfortunately we couldn't get out with a finish we deserve. I thought we were a top-five car. But not bad.”
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was proud of Blaney for his race-long performance and equally proud of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew for patching up the damage to the No. 21 Ford Fusion from the incidents on the track.
“Any time you can run all the laps at Daytona, you are to be commended,” Wood said. “And on the final run, Ryan started 22nd, got to 16th at the white flag and 14th at the checkered.”
“That’s impressive, as was the dominant performance by Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team in delivering our fellow Ford team owner Roger Penske his 100th Sprint Cup win.”