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Blaney, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Finish 18th At Atlanta Despite Early Setback

For the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, a somewhat disappointing day at Atlanta Motor Speedway was much easier to take because their No. 21 Ford Fusion had the speed to finish much higher than the 18th place it wound up.

On Sunday, in the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500, Ryan Blaney was on the march from the drop of the green flag, moving from his 14th starting position to seventh in the first 30 laps.

But just a few laps after his first pit stop he returned to pit road under the green flag due to a vibration. The Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew changed tires and returned him to the track one lap behind the leader, which ordinarily wouldn’t be cause for great concern.

But for the first two-thirds of Sunday’s race, caution flags, other than for the ends of the first two 85-lap stages, weren’t flying, and a timely yellow flag was what Blaney needed most to rejoin the lead lap.

Crew chief Jeremy Bullins tried several strategies, including short pitting, to regain the lost ground, but the timing of subsequent cautions rarely worked in his favor.

Making the situation even more frustrating for Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was the fact that Blaney was holding his own, even when he was riding tires with far more wear than those of most of his competitors.

Still, when the checkered flag fell, with Blaney on pit road with another tire issue, he was still inside the top 20.

“With the way everything played out, I think we were pretty lucky to come away with an 18th-place finish,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “Ryan hung in there all day, and we’re proud of him for that. And the whole team kept battling all day even when it was looking like we were headed for a bad finish.”
As it is, Blaney is in eighth place in the championship standings, 27 points behind leader Kevin Harvick as Ford drivers hold four of the top five spots in the standings and five of the top eight. Ford drivers also have won the first two Cup races of the season with Kurt Busch winning the Daytona 500 and Brad Keselowski taking the checkered flag at Atlanta.

“It’s hard to be disappointed leaving Atlanta when Ford is two for two on the season,” Wood said. “And it was good to see our friends at Team Penske win the race for Ford at Atlanta after Kevin Harvick had problems late in the race. Kevin had a really fast car.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be back on the track next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Wood Brothers Looking To Build On Their Rich History at Atlanta

The Wood Brothers and Atlanta Motor Speedway have a lot in common, besides their history with each other.

The Woods are one of NASCAR’s cornerstone teams, having run their first NASCAR race back in 1953 and continuing today, where they’re the sport’s longest-participating team.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway, formerly known as Atlanta International Raceway, is one of the sport’s cornerstone tracks. It was part of the original superspeedway boom back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when tracks opened in Daytona, Charlotte, Atlanta and Hanford, California.

The big, fast tracks joined Darlington Raceway on the NASCAR circuit, and other than the failure of Marchbanks Speedway in California, the three new tracks helped transition NASCAR from a sport built around dirt tracks to the one fans enjoy today.

And just like many a race team, the Atlanta track has had its share of troubles, but persevered to be a major player in the sport today. If not for the dedication of people like Atlanta’s former track superintendent Alf Knight, AMS might not have survived its early struggles and eventual bankruptcy in the 1970s.

“Those people back in the day came up with a plan to keep it going to the point where Bruton Smith could come in and give the track a lot of security,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. “Under his leadership they modernized the place, changed the track from a true oval to a quad-oval and secured the track’s place on the NASCAR schedule.”

 Through the years, the Wood Brothers and their Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have built a rich history at the Atlanta track. The Woods ran in the track’s inaugural race in July of 1960 and have run 103 more races since, sometimes entering two cars in an event. They’ve won 12 times, scored 33 top-five and 45 top-10 finishes and captured nine poles. That’s more victories than at any track other than Daytona International Speedway, where the Woods have 15 Cup triumphs.

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The Woods got their first Atlanta victory in the spring of 1965, with Marvin Panch driving. Panch added another that fall. Cale Yarborough and David Pearson had three Atlanta wins apiece in the No. 21, Neil Bonnett had two, A.J. Foyt had one as did Morgan Shepherd, who won the 1993 Motorcraft Quality Parts 500.

“We’ve had some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers win for us at Atlanta, and we’re looking forward to a chance to add Ryan Blaney’s name to the list,” Wood said, adding that a strong run and second-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 has the team in a good frame of mind heading into Atlanta. “It’s like getting a push in the draft. A good finish at Daytona gets you ready for the rest of the season.

“You worry all winter long about the Daytona 500, and if you come out of there with a good finish it makes the other races some easier because you haven’t put yourself in a bad spot in the points standings.”

Qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is set for Friday at 5:45 p.m., and the race should get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.

Blaney’s Runner-Up Run Secures 1-2 Finish For Ford In Daytona 500

Thanks to some quick work by the Wood Brothers crew and some heads-up driving by Ryan Blaney, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was able to do its part to deliver Ford Motor Company a 1-2 finish in NASCAR’s biggest race.

Blaney, in a back-up No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, charged from 40th place at the start into the top five in the first 26 laps of Sunday’s 59th annual Daytona 500, then into the lead by lap 49.

From there until the end of the race, Blaney had to overcome damage from two multi-car collisions. But on the final lap he used a drafting push from his Ford teammate Joey Logano to surge into second place behind race winner Kurt Busch, who gave Stewart-Haas Racing a win in its first points-paying race under the Ford banner.

Aric Almirola, driving the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, also came on strong at the end to finish fourth. It was the first time since the 2001 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway that the Wood Brothers and the Pettys, long-time rivals and fast friends for decades, both finished in the top five in a points-paying Cup race.

In that 2001 race, Elliott Sadler, driving the No. 21 Ford, won over John Andretti in the No. 43.

At Daytona, most of the top finishers, including Busch and Blaney, had considerable damage to their cars.

“Looks like everyone ran a race at Martinsville,” Blaney said in his post-race comments, referring to the beating and banging style of racing that is common on the short track at Martinsville Speedway. “Everyone’s stuff was torn up.”

 

Blaney’s Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew got a major test of their skills under the new five-minute clock instituted by NASCAR this year. That new rule gives teams just five minutes to repair their car enough to get it back up to minimum speed or the car is not allowed to continue in the race.

 

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said his crew was able to get the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion back on the track and back up to speed despite having to beat the clock.

“They fixed it the best they could,” Wood said. “You have to be mindful of the clock and not let it run out.”

“They did a great job under the circumstances.”

As the laps wound down on Sunday, Blaney found himself mired in the middle of a lead pack that seemed content to run single file for most of the final 20 laps.

 “I tried to make a move with 10 to go to see what would happen,” Blaney said. “No one really went with me. The 22 [Logano] tried to. It really wasn’t happening. I was kind of worried it was just going to end that way.”
Then he and Logano hooked up on the final lap.

   “Luckily I got Joey behind me there down the front stretch, and we were able to lay back to him and get a huge run into [turn] one,” Blaney said. “At that same moment, the 41 [Busch] went to go past the 42 [Kyle Larson], and it kept my run going, all the way up to second.”

Blaney’s final scare came when his fuel supply ran low, a problem that many of his competitors were experiencing at about the same time.

“I started kind of running out the gas there into [turn] three,” he said. “We started sputtering pretty bad.  Luckily it made it back to the line.”

Blaney emphasized that his best career Cup finish was due in large part to having a fast Ford and to the maturity of its driver and crew, including his spotter Josh Williams. He said that although his primary car was knocked out during Thursday’s qualifying races, his back-up was just as fast.  And he said he felt like his own restrictor-plate racing skills are improving.

“It was definitely a little bit of both with the car and myself, and myself and Josh Williams up top, my spotter, getting a little bit more comfortable with each other and communicating really well,” Blaney said. “He’s done a great job.”

 He added that the strong start to the 2017 season gives him and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team a boost heading into this weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“It was a good way to start off the year,” he said. “Stinks to be so close, but I think that’s good momentum for our team, to be good at the beginning of the day, get some damage and be able to rally for a good finish.”

For Wood, the team owner, the bottom line from Daytona is a strong finish for Ford Motor Company.

“Having Fords finish first, second and fourth is a great way to start the season,” he said. “And it’s especially nice to be a part of that with Edsel B. Ford II [Board Member] and Joe Hinrichs  [President of the Americas for Ford Motor Company] there to experience it with us on our pit box.”

Blaney, thanks to his finishing position plus nine points earned in the first two stages of the Daytona 500, now sits 2nd in the driver standings heading into the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5.