Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team got off to a good start in Sunday’s 301-lap race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but the second half of the race was more of a challenge with changing track conditions and untimely caution periods.
Blaney wound up a disappointing 19th at the finish, but that was good enough to move up one spot to 12th place in the championship standings.
Blaney took the green flag on Sunday from the 15th position and moved up to 12th place after just six laps. He was still in 12th place when Erik Jones spun just after a restart at Lap 42. That could have been a race-ending incident for the No. 21 team but Blaney, running just behind Jones, slipped by undamaged.
From that point on to the end of Stage One, Blaney ran just outside the top 10. On Lap 69, crew chief Jeremy Bullins called Blaney to the pits for four tires and fuel. Blaney lined up 16th for the three laps of green-flag racing and was able to drive up to eighth place by the end of that stage and collect three bonus points.
Blaney stayed on the track when most of the leaders pitted at the end of the first stage and lined up second for the restart. Subsequent restarts from the bottom lane hindered his progress on restarts, but still he was able to collect three more points for another eighth-place finish in Stage Two.
The third and final stage of the race did not play out as well for the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team as the caution flags didn’t fly at opportune times for the team and the conditions of the track, which was treated with a substance to add grip, changed as well.
A strategy of running longer into the green-flag run following Stage Two didn’t work as planned, and Blaney was unable to rejoin the top 10 for the remainder of the race.
“I feel like we started out OK and I thought we made decent gains,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “About halfway I thought the track changed, and all that [treatment] got off of it.
“We kind of got a little worse. We tried the long run and it didn’t play out for us.
“I didn’t get a great finish out of it. The first half of the day went pretty good. We just need to figure out how to finish out the second half.”
Although Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were hoping for much better than a 19th-place finish, the post-race statistics put the day in a different perspective.
After the points were calculated, they had moved up one spot in the standings to 12th place headed into next week’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s hard to be too disappointed when you move up in the points standings,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “It shows the strength of this team that we can gain a spot in the standings on a day like today.
“We’ll take that and go on to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week and try to capitalize on the speed we’ve had there in the past.”