The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will write a new chapter in the team’s history as they compete at Kentucky Speedway for the first time ever.
The team’s rookie driver Ryan Blaney is no stranger to the Sparta, Ky., track. He’s won two Xfinity Series races there, in 2013 and last year, driving for Team Penske. In the Camping World Truck Series he has three top-five finishes and a pole position driving a Ford owned by Brad Keselowski. His third-place finishes were in 2014 and 2015. Despite these achievments, any advantage Blaney and his crew chief Jeremy Bullins might have from those earlier races has been lessened by a repave and reconfiguration of the 1.5-mile track. Turns one and two have seen the banking increased from 14 to 17 degrees, and those turns have been narrowed by a widening of the pit road exit. Turns three and four are basically the same as before, at 14 degrees of banking.
“I have to admit I was sad to see Kentucky get repaved,” Bullins said. “I know it probably needed it, but we'd had so much success there with the Team Penske Xfinity car, and certainly the Team Penske Sprint Cup program had some great notes as well.”
“But all things come to an end, and this weekend we face a new challenge.”
Fortunately for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, Blaney and Bullins were able to get a head start on adapting to the new surface during a recent test session.
“We were able to test on the new surface back in June and gained some valuable experience and gathered a lot of data,” Bullins said. “Certainly a big challenge is the new banking configuration.”
“Turns one and two are more banked than before, while three and four are similar to the old bank angle.
That makes it tough to get your car set up correctly because it wants to travel more in one and two than three and four.”
“It’s similar to a Pocono now, where I expect the car to be good in one end or the other and give up something on the other end.
“Whoever can overcome that will definitely be ahead of the game.”
Saturday’s 400 miler also will mark the second appearance of the lower downforce aerodynamic package that made its debut at Michigan International Speedway last month.
“My only concern there is that with a repaved race track we have to use a harder tire, and that usually means less lap time fall-off,” Bullins said. “I hope the aero package gets a fair shot as this is a worst-case scenario as the track will have a lot of grip with fresh asphalt.”
In Blaney’s and Bullins’ favor is the fact that they’re not alone in their inexperience on the current Kentucky lay-out. Bullins looks at that as a chance for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team to shine.
“It will be new for everyone, and it's another opportunity for us to try to overcome what we face better than the rest of the teams,” he said. “If we can do that, Kentucky might still be near the top of the list of favorite tracks for us.”
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team In Unchartered Territory At Kentucky
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