A strong start to Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway by Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team began to unravel just past the halfway mark when Blaney was collected in a couple of crashes that left him mired two laps down and ended with a disappointing 25th place finish.
The finish was no indication of the early speed shown by Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team. After starting seventh, Blaney worked his way into the top five and was running fourth when the first caution flag flew. A problem with a lug nut stuck in the wrench’s socket dropped him to 20th on the next restart, but he soon worked his way forward and finished the first 130-lap Stage in seventh place.
Despite concerns about a tire rub in Stage Two, Blaney ran in the top five throughout the segment before finishing fifth, thereby earning 10 championship points for the two segments. He now has earned 41 stage points for the season, sixth best among Cup drivers.
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew used the caution period after the second stage to make sure there was no body damage that might damage a tire, and he returned to the track in 15th position.
But he was collected in a crash at Lap 290 that damaged the No. 21 Ford Fusion and put him down one lap to the leaders.
A second incident just after the restart caused more damage, and the ensuing unscheduled pit stop trapped him two laps behind the leaders.
With the race playing out so that there wasn’t a realistic opportunity to regain lost laps, Blaney soldiered home 25th behind race winner and Ford teammate Brad Keselowski.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was proud of the way his young driver drove his way into the lead pack and held his own against some of NASCAR’s best drivers at Martinsville.
“Ryan did a great job in the first two stages, staying in the top ten and getting those extra stage points.” Wood said. “But once we got caught up that crash and had to pit under green to repair damage, our day didn’t turn out like we hoped.
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team didn’t leave Martinsville empty handed. Prior to the race, the Wood Brothers received the Clay Earles Award from the speedway. The award, named for the late track founder and presented by his grandson and current track president Clay Campbell, was accepted by Glen, Leonard, Eddie and Len Wood.
“It was a great honor to receive that award,” Glen Wood said. “Clay Earles’ family and our family have meant a lot to each other over the years.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, who remain in seventh place in the driver and owner standings, will return to the track next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.