For Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Quick Lane team, the 16 championship points earned via third-place finishes in the first two Stages of Sunday’s Brickyard 400 lessened the pain of a disappointing 23rd-place finish.
When the points were tallied after the race, Blaney had earned 30, the equivalent of a seventh-place finish, despite having his race end prematurely due to his involvement in the mayhem that marked the second half of the race. There were a record 14 caution periods that consumed 55 laps and saw 17 drivers, including Blaney, eliminated with crashed race cars.
But for two-thirds of the race, Blaney and his No. 21 Quick Lane Fusion raced among the top five.
He started 10th and drove his way to fifth place after just five laps. He finished the first 50-lap Stage in third place, earning eight points. A strategy call by crew chief Jeremy Bullins to pit earlier than the rest of the leaders midway through Stage Two eventually led to Blaney leading six laps and scoring another third-place Stage finish and collecting another eight points.
Blaney continued to race among the top five until a series of multi-car crashes changed the complexion of the race and saw Blaney involved in two incidents, the second of which took him out of the race with five laps remaining in a race that was extended by seven laps due to crashes.
“We were good, running top five all day long, and the strategy worked great and I thought we were on the right side of things,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “Then the yellows came out and gave the guys who stayed out some breaks to come in and get tires with us and cycle up to the lead.
“Before than we ran good, finished third in the first two stages. That gives us confidence to that we have our cars where they need to be going forward.”
Blaney added that his Fusion was the best ride he’s had at Indy during his brief Cup career.
“We had a really great car, definitely the best car I’ve had in three years at Indy,” he said. “I can’t thank the Wood Brothers, Motorcraft and Quick Lane for all they do.
“It was a lot of fun all day running up near the front. Now we’ll go to Pocono which is a good track for us.”
Blaney remains in 12th place in the points standings heading to Pocono Raceway, where on June 11 he got his first career Cup victory and the 99th for his Wood Brothers team