Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, like a lot of others in Sunday’s Cheez-It 335 at Watkins Glen International, had their share of miscues and off-road excursions.
But in the end, Blaney brought the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion home in 19th place and remains 18th in the driver standings heading into a rare off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series.
Blaney started 19th and had moved up several positions when he was nabbed for speeding on pit road during his first stop. After serving his penalty he was scored in 37th place but managed to stay ahead of the race leaders and maintain his spot on the lead lap.
Then, just before the halfway point, Blaney ran off the track, accumulating grass on the grille of his Fusion. But he was able to pit and have the front of his car cleaned, eliminating the threat of overheating.
He began to move forward, and by the time the caution flag flew with 35 of 90 laps remaining, he was running 16th.
Over the closing, caution-filled laps, Blaney maintained a position inside the top 20 and wound up 19th at the finish.
Team co-owner Len Wood said that while the race had the feeling of a long day at the office, it could have been much worse.
“When we had the speeding penalty early, it changed all the strategy options as far as what we could do to overcome the penalty,” Wood said. “It was a bit of a struggle.”
When Blaney made his final stop, with 41 laps remaining, crew chief Jeremy Bullins opted for just two tires and one can of fuel so as to get Blaney back on the track as quickly as possible.
However, with the way the race played out, with numerous caution flag in the closing laps, that strategy move was somewhat negated.
Still, Wood said, the overall performance of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team left plenty to be proud of.
“The pit crew had another outstanding race,” he said. “And Ryan did a good job of avoiding the big wrecks.
“We could have easily been involved in one or more of them.”
Wood went on to say that Blaney, with just two road course races in his Cup career, will be much better going forward.
“It’s a learning experience,” Wood said.
Now, after a week off, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to one his best tracks, Bristol Motor Speedway, where he finished 11th in April.
“He was running fifth with 17 laps to go and wound up in the slower lane on a restart,” Wood said. “It’ll be good to get back to Bristol.”