Author Archives: Jordan Wood

David Pearson-Like Drive At Kansas Earns Blaney A Berth In The Round Of Eight

28eb57cecbd9a88b6147cd7b95d74957-1With their playoff hopes seemingly on the ropes due to a penalty after qualifying, Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Omnicraft Auto Parts team turned in a near-perfect performance in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Blaney started 40th, drove his way to fourth place by the end of the first 80-lap Stage, finished eighth in the second then third in the race to secure a berth in the Round of Eight in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood had great praise for the entire Omnicraft Auto Parts team and was especially impressed by Blaney’s poise under the pressure that comes with a cut-off race in the playoffs.

Wood said Blaney made smart decisions driving his way to the front, something only the greatest of drivers seem to know how to do.

“That was a David Pearson run right there,” Wood said. “Ryan knew what he had to do. He raced hard, but he was mindful of what was going on around him. He missed the wrecks. It was just a tremendous effort.”

Wood also complimented crew chief Jeremy Bullins on his race strategy throughout the day, including one call to leave Blaney on the track near the end of Stage Two, a call that led to three important bonus points.

15f8a580209502fa0dc63985c89964d4-1 “Jeremy did a great job calling the race, and the pit crew did a great job, getting Ryan back on the track in good shape despite operating from the least-desirable pit box,” Wood said, adding that none of it would have been possible without the Woods’ alliance with Team Penske. “Their help is second to none.”

Due to the penalty after qualifying, Bullins got the 40th pick of pit stalls for Sunday’s race.

Still, when the points were totaled, Blaney, with his third-place finish and 10 stage points, was in seventh place, 23 points about the cut-off.

He will open the Round of Eight in seventh place with nine playoff points from his win at Pocono and four stage wins.

Blaney, who now has four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes on the season, said Sunday’s comeback was a total team performance.

“Having a pretty fast car there at the end, really all race, shows some pretty great resilience from the Wood Brothers team,” he said. “It definitely feels good to be moving on, for sure.”

Blaney said good fortune was on his side when he dodged the Lap 199 multi-car crash that collected several of his fellow playoff drivers.

“Some of that is luck, for sure, being on the bottom, being able to get clear of that,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job this year.”

Blaney went on to say that despite the seriousness of Monster Energy Cup racing, he’s enjoyed his time with the Wood Brothers and the Omnicraft team.

“I would say this is probably the most fun I’ve ever had racing with anybody, no matter what car,” he said. “They just make it a really fun year. Just to be competitive, still be in this [playoff] thing, that’s just a bonus, to be honest with you.”

And so far, he’s exceeded whatever hopes he might have had prior to the season.

“I didn’t really have any goals, expectations,” he said. “I just wanted us to do well, see where it ended up.

“It’s going pretty decent for us right now. Hopefully we can keep that going.”

Blaney will return to his familiar Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors for next Sunday’s race at the Wood Brothers’ home track, Martinsville Speedway.

Inspection Issue Sends Blaney To The Rear At Kansas

9183ce9a90c9b8e12b2b69262df61ae1-1Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Omnicraft Auto Parts team will have to come from the rear of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway after their third-place qualifying time was disallowed because the No. 21 Fusion failed a post-qualifying inspection.

Blaney, who enters the final race of the Monster Energy Cup playoff’s Round of 12 in seventh place, had been among the fastest drivers in practice and qualifying on Friday at Kansas.

Now he’ll need all that speed to work his way up from his 40th starting spot in Sunday’s 400 miler.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that in today’s competitive environment, teams tend to take chances when it comes to preparing their cars.

8850df3da794beb5f5f692f9ce85dabf-1 “The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car,” Wood said. “We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.

“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

Blaney and his Wood Brothers team, participating in the NASCAR playoffs for the first time, enter the final race of the Round of 12 two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch.

The Hollywood Casino 400 is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Blaney, Omnicraft Team Head To Their Best Track For Round Of 12 Finale

3e68219c3528fbf052baa8e5e0ea5180-1If Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Omnicraft team had their pick of race tracks to run the elimination race of the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, they’d likely pick Kansas Speedway, the site of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.

Blaney made his Cup debut at Kansas in 2014, driving a Team Penske Ford. Since moving to the Wood Brothers No. 21 the next season, Kansas has statistically been his best track.

He has three finishes of seventh or better in four Kansas starts in the No. 21 Fusion with an average finish of 7.5. He won his first Cup pole there in May, and set a career record for points earned in a single race with 51.

In that Go Bowling 400, he led 83 laps, finished third in Stage One and won Stage Two before finishing fourth at the checkered flag.

Blaney, who will carry the colors of Omnicraft for the second time this season, enters this weekend’s 400-miler seventh in the points standings, two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch. The bottom four drivers in the playoff standings will be eliminated from championship contention after Sunday’s race.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s happy to have come this far in the playoffs and hoping to make it to the third round.

Wood said the team will be focusing on earning stage points, beginning with practice and qualifying on Friday. A top starting spot means there are fewer drivers to pass to be among the top 10 and thereby earn points in the first stage.

Stage points have been key to the success Blaney and the No. 21 team have enjoyed throughout the season.

Through Talladega, Blaney has earned 193 stage points. He’s won four stages, plus a win at Pocono Raceway, and scored 17 top-five stage finishes and 36 top-10s.

“We saw how important stage points are last week at Talladega, and it’ll be the same this week at Kansas,” Wood said. “The 18 points Ryan earned in the first two stages at Talladega allowed us to move up four spots in the standings even after wrecking out of the race.”

Wood also said he believes his team’s battle for a spot in the Round of Eight will bring extra attention to Omnicraft, which is Ford Motor Company’s new brand of quality replacement parts for non-Ford and non-Lincoln vehicles.

The Omnicraft brand, which made its debut in January, is Ford’s first new parts brand in 50 years and will give its dealers and the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers access to quality parts for any vehicle brought in for service.

“One of the perks of being in the playoffs is that it brings more attention to our car and its sponsor, and this weekend’s media coverage will raise awareness for the Omnicraft brand,” Wood said, adding that he’s cautiously optimistic about the upcoming weekend. “Hopefully we can build on our run at Kansas in May and make it to the Round of Eight.”

Qualifying for the Hollywood Casino 400 is set for Friday at 5:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m. Eastern Time), and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Stage Points Help Blaney Move Up In Playoff Standings Despite Talladega Crash

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, TalladegaStage points turned out to be the silver lining for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Quick Lane team in a Talladega race that didn’t end as they hoped it might.

The 18 points earned by Blaney in the early stages of Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway added a very positive element to an otherwise disappointing day to the race for Blaney and the Quick Lane team.

After strong finishes in the two 55-lap stages, Blaney positioned himself to challenge for the win as the laps wound down. He narrowly avoided trouble on several occasions before being swept up in one of the late multi-car crashes that left just 14 drivers running at the finish.

Blaney, who was eliminated in a Lap 177 crash, was credited with the 18th finishing position, but when his stage points were added in he actually moved up four spots in the playoff standings.

He entered the 500 in 11th place but left in seventh place, two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch.

The Round of 12 ends next weekend at Kansas Speedway, which has been one of the better tracks for the No. 21 team.

For much of Sunday’s race, Blaney and his fellow Ford drivers were among the fastest on the track.

The Ford teams worked together in Stage One to set up a strong finish. The drivers all headed to pit road for fuel under the green flag on Lap 13, and that led to Ford drivers sweeping the top four spots with Blaney earning eight points for a third-place finish.

He came back and dominated the second stage, leading the final 19 laps of that 55-lap segment to earn an addition 10 stage points plus one playoff point.

Blaney was poised to pad his points total even more before the crash that took him out of the race.

A disappointed Blaney said there was nothing he could have done to escape damage in the five-car crash that damaged his Fusion to badly to continue on.

“We were up by the wall and somebody probably got turned and I got in it,” he said. “I didn’t think there were enough cars to wreck that much anymore, but we happened to find it, and a good day kind of down the drain.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said Sunday’s race proves something he’s long believed about restrictor-plate racing on the giant Alabama track.

“Talladega can be your best friend, but it can turn into your worst enemy in a second,” he said.

“But I was really proud of the way Ryan and the Quick Lane team performed today.

“We came into the race wanting to earn stage points and then try to finish the race as high as we could.”

He said that will be the strategy again next week at Kansas Speedway.

“We ran well there earlier this year, so we’ll go into the race with the same goals – earning stage points and finishing as high as possible.”

Wood also said he was proud of Talladega’s track president Grant Lynch and his staff for hosting a grand event.

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Talladega “The stands were full, and seeing so many people there made it feel like the old Talladega,” Wood said.

Among those who made the trip to Talladega for the Alabama 500 were Edsel Ford and Brett Wheatley from Ford Motor Company.

“I hope they enjoyed it,” Wood said. “One of our Ford teammates, Brad Keselowski from Team Penske, won the race, and Ryan and the Quick Lane team were at their best today.

“I know Ryan is disappointed that he wasn’t able to finish the race, but he did a great job and missed a lot of wrecks before the one that finally ended his day.”

Blaney Qualifies Ninth At Talladega

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, TalladegaWith a strong ninth-place qualifying result on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway, Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center team set themselves up to earn some valuable stage points in Sunday’s Alabama 500.

Blaney, one of the drivers in the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, knows that earning stage points will be important if he hopes to advance to the Round of Eight, which begins after next week’s race at Kansas Speedway.

By starting ninth on Sunday, Blaney will be in a better position to be among the top 10 at the end of the first of two 55-lap stages. Up to 10 points are available to winners of each of the first two stages, and the top 10 finishers in stages earn points based on their finishing positions at the end of each stage.

Blaney enters Sunday’s race 11th in the standings but just five points shy of being among the elite eight that will advance to the next playoff round.

After qualifying, Blaney gave the Quick Lane team the credit for his success in qualifying.

“I thought we had decent speed,” he said. “We’re wide open. Drivers don’t do much here. (Crew chief) Jeremy (Bullins) and everybody on the team set it up.

“I thought we had a good car. We’ll see what we do Sunday.”

Blaney and the Quick Lane team have had good speed all weekend at Talladega. He was third fastest in the opening practice on Friday with a best lap at 197.798 miles per hour. Satisfied with their speed, the team sat out the final practice session.

On Saturday, he was eighth fastest in the first qualifying round with a speed of 189.676 mph, then ninth in the second and final round with an almost identical lap at 189.669 mph.

“It’s not bad,” Blaney said. “It’s a good place to start.”

The Alabama 500 is set to start just after 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.

Quick Lane Sponsorship A Good Fit For The No. 21 Fusion At Talladega

Back in the day, when the Wood Brothers were en route to winning five races at Talladega Superspeedway from 1971 to 1980, horsepower, some slick sheet metal and a calculating driver were the most important factors in team’s performance.

But when the green flag drops Sunday to start the Alabama 500 at Talladega, Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Fusion will need all of the above, plus some Quick Lane-type service on pit road if they hope to score stage points, contend for victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, IndianapolisTeam co-owner Eddie Wood said it’s fitting that the iconic No. 21 will carry the blue-and-white colors of Quick Lane this weekend at Talladega.

“Pit stops are so important these days,” Wood said. “In the old days at Talladega you could have a slow stop and draft your way back to the front.

“But with the way restrictor-plate races play out now and with so many cars running essentially the same speed, if you have a slow stop, you’re in danger of getting lapped or ending up with such poor track position that you can’t contend for stage points or a victory.”

Wood said the crew of the No. 21 Fusion has been among the fastest and most reliable on pit road all seasons, usually gaining spots on every pit stop and doing so with a minimum of mistakes.

“That’s the same philosophy Ford dealers have with their Quick Lane service,” Wood said. “We hope the work of our pit crew will have the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” effect for Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center dealers as they compete for customers looking for service for their automobiles.”

There’s another reason Quick Lane has taken the primary sponsorship position this weekend.

The team and Quick Lane are promoting the company’s “Trading One Uniform For Another” scholarship program for military veterans who want to pursue careers as automotive technicians.

Now in its second year, the program offers five $10,000 scholarships to veterans who want to enter private life as service technicians.

Anyone can nominate a veteran for the scholarship program by visiting www.QLtradingone.com.

The five winners will be announced on Dec. 26 at the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.

Wood said the motoring public needs good mechanics just as much as a NASCAR race team.

“It takes a high level of maintenance and preparation to get a race car to withstand the punishment of a 500-mile race,” Wood said. “And even the best-built passenger cars benefit from the services of a well-trained mechanic.

“I can’t think of any better candidate for a career as a mechanic than someone who has been serving their country in the Armed Forces.”

Qualifying for the Alabama 500 is set for Saturday at 3:15 p.m. Central Time (4:15 Eastern) and the race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1 p.m. (2 p.m. Eastern) with TV coverage on NBC.

Talladega Stage Points Are Key To Blaney’s Playoff Hopes

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, TalladegaStage racing, instituted by NASCAR officials at the beginning of the season to inject drama into the early portions of races, has had a major impact on how race teams plan strategy.

For drivers and teams in the Round of 12 in the playoffs, this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway could see stage racing take on even greater importance.

In years past, some teams often chose to ride around in the rear of the pack at Talladega, hoping to avoid being collected in one of the points-killing, multi-car crashes that seem to occur on a frequent basis at the giant Alabama track.

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, pointed out in an interview session at Martinsville Speedway that there will be no riding around early on for him and his fellow playoff contenders.

“It really hurts you when you don’t get any of those points, so I think a lot of teams are going go out there and be pretty aggressive at Talladega, trying to get some stage points,” Blaney said. “I know we’re going have to be aggressive because you can take a big swing in the points if you can do well or if you do bad at them.”

For most of the 2017 season, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have been successful in running up stage points. He’s scored those bonus points in 22 races for a total of 175 points.

“You have to start off these races so good to try to run up there and collect those points,” Blaney said. “We’ve done that. We know how to do it.”

Blaney enters Sunday’s Alabama 500 11th in the championship standings but just five points behind eighth place, and the top eight will advance to the next playoff round after the Oct. 22 race at Kansas Speedway. He’s hopeful that the speeds shown by Ford in recent restrictor-plate races will continue this weekend.

Ford drivers have won all three restrictor-plate races this season and seven of the past 10 races at Talladega including the past four straight. Blaney has had restrictor-plate success as well, finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“The Fords have been really fast this year at the speedways,” he said. “They’ve won every single one of them this year, so that’s pretty encouraging to know.

“We’ve always had a great speedway program – Ford in general – so I think that’s a huge testament to not only the teams at getting the cars ready, but that’s a huge statement for Roush Yates. They’ve done a great job of getting the motors to where we need to be on the speedways, so that’s always nice to know.”

What’s not nice to know is the possibility of being swept up in one of the multi-car crashes that seem to happen regularly in the giant packs of cars that are an inevitable part of restrictor-plate racing.

“You just try the best you can to try to position yourself to where you don’t have to try to avoid anything, but you never know what can happen,” he said. “I don’t really think about even the second-place run at Daytona. I don’t really even think about that one because it’s a whole different game.

“You can never really go in there with a game plan. You do the best you can, but everything changes when the green flag drops.”

Qualifying for the Alabama 500 is set for Saturday at 3:15 p.m. Central Time (4:15 Eastern) and the race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1 p.m. (2 p.m. Eastern) with TV coverage on NBC.

Blaney Rebounds From Slow Start To Finish Eighth At Charlotte

6ff1184fa5315dd0efd3bb1877209c40-1Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team took a car that wasn’t handling very well early on in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and tuned it to the point that it finished eighth. The team now heads to Talladega Superspeedway just five points back of a spot among the top eight that will advance to the third round of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs.

Blaney started the 500 from 15th place but was running outside the top 20 when the planned competition caution flag flew at Lap 35.

From that point on, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team worked on the No. 21 Fusion on each pit stop, and by the end of Stage Two, Blaney was running in the ninth position, which earned him two valuable stage points.

From then on until the checkered flag, Blaney was able to maintain a spot in the top 10 as he finished eighth for his 11th top-10 finish of the season.

Among the issues the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team had to overcome was a broken tether on the left-rear wheel. That meant the jack needed an extra pump or two to get the left side lifted on pit stops. Even so, the over-the-wall crew repeatedly returned Blaney to the track with a minimum of lost time.

 “It’s solid,” Blaney said of his team’s performance on Sunday. “I thought we did a good job of getting better throughout the race.

“We were a lot better at the end of the race than what we were at the beginning. That says a lot about the team and hopefully we can keep it up and run decent the next two weeks.

“I’m proud of the effort to get better and the hard work, so that’s what we needed.”

84fd0a8ca0b5c680d53e753a3473ed29-1 Blaney’s now 11th in the championship standings, well within reach of the elite eight as the circuit heads to Talladega, where unexpected turns of events are the norm, as team co-owner Eddie Wood said.

“Our goal coming into Charlotte was to not do anything to take ourselves out of the playoff picture,” Wood said. “Ryan drove a smart race, stayed out of trouble and didn’t panic when the car wasn’t handling well at the start of the race.

“We raced around the people we’re competing against for the cut-off position, which is where we should be running, and the pit crew did a great job despite some challenges with the broken tether.

“Now we’ll all go to Talladega, which is going to tell the story for all of us in this round of the playoffs.”

Blaney said he knows how he’d like that Talladega story to read.

“We’re going to try to run up front and win,” he said.

Wood Brothers Considered Robert Yates A Member Of Their Racing Family

As Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head to Charlotte Motor Speedway to continue their participation in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, their thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the late Robert Yates.

IMG_9157 Yates, known throughout the sport as the King of Horsepower, died Monday at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer.

Like many in the garage, especially those who campaign under the Ford Motor Company banner, the Wood Brothers and their Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have long considered Yates a member of their racing family.

For the Wood Brothers, the connection is especially close. Yates built engines for the team in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the company he built, Roush Yates Racing Engines, now provides the power for the No. 21 Fusion along with every other team that represents the Blue Oval in NASCAR’s top three divisions.

Len Wood, co-owner of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, said Yates played a major role in the No. 21’s history over the years.

“Robert built engines for us way back when, and the engines we run today come from the company he founded,” Wood said. “We look at him and his son Doug as being on our team.”

Wood said the first time he met Yates, he came away impressed. The Woods had gone to Charlotte to look at some property and wound up at the engine shop operated by Parky Nall. Yates was working for Nall at the time.

“Robert was standing beside an engine he’d built, with one hand on it, looking like he was really proud of it,” Wood said. “The first thing I noticed was that the valve springs had little yellow stripes on them, and the stripes were all lined up.

“I remember thinking: ‘This guy really knows what he’s doing.’”

Wood said Yates didn’t mind sharing his expertise, especially with other Ford teams.

Once, while Len, his brother Eddie and some younger members of the team were struggling to get an engine started at the track, Yates initially watched from a distance.

Once he’d sized up the situation, he came over and offered his advice.

“He said to put a new fuel pump on it,” Len Wood said. “It had a new pump on it, but we did what Robert said, put another one on it and it fired right up.”

A later inspection found an improperly installed diaphragm.

Wood said his team wasn’t the only recipient of a helping hand from Robert Yates. “He helped a lot of people.”

In the early 1990s, Yates had been experimenting with different angles for engine valves and had gotten a big horsepower advantage over the competition, including his fellow Ford teams.

“We were pulling 635 horsepower, and we were hearing that Robert’s engines were said to have 700,” Wood said. “It was hard to believe at the time.”

NASCAR officials decided that Yates had to share his technology with the other Ford teams or lose the right to use it themselves.

The Woods and the other Ford teams got a set of Yates’ cylinder heads along with recommendations on other components like camshafts and pistons, as well as advice on how to get the most speed from them.

When the Woods made their first dynamometer test of the Yates-designed engine, their horsepower jumped from 635 to 660. A second engine, with more refinements, pulled 675. A third delivered 690 horsepower.

It was that third engine that Dale Jarrett used to score his first Cup victory, at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 18, 1991.

And the car and driver he beat that day was none other than the No. 28 Ford owned by Robert Yates and driven by Davey Allison.

Eight years later, Jarrett won the Cup championship, capitalizing on the power under the hood of the Yates-owned No. 88 Ford.

Wood pointed out that while Yates had great success on the track, he also dealt with difficult situations over the years. But he didn’t let them get him down.

There was the death of his star driver Davey Allison, followed by serious injuries to Ernie Irvan, who took over the No. 28 after Allison died.

“Both of those tragedies would have broken a normal man, but Robert bounced back,” Wood said. “Even the cancer didn’t break him.”

Wood said he and his brother Eddie visited Yates at his farm in April. They rode around in Yates’ pickup as he showed them fields he’d cleared and other improvements he’d made to the property.

“We were with him for about two hours,” Wood said. “We spent about an hour and a half talking about the farm, and we talked about the race we’d just run and about engines he built back in the day.

“He spent maybe five minutes talking about the cancer.”

Decal Yates’ time on earth is over, but his place in NASCAR history and in Wood Brothers history is secure, as team co-owner Eddie Wood said.

“He will be a part of our family forever,” Wood said.

The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion will carry a special decal honoring Yates this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Qualifying for the Bank of America 500 is set for Friday at 7:20 p.m., and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.

Smart Drive At Dover Earns Blaney An Advance To The Round Of 12

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, DoverIt wasn’t pretty for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway, but it was mission accomplished as they will advance to the Monster Energy Cup Playoff Round of 12 despite a 23rd-place finish.

Blaney qualified 11th but struggled from the start with an ill-handling car.

He had dropped to 20th place by Lap 63, but the real setback came just after he made his first green-flag pit stop.

Before the cycle of pit stops could be completed, Jeffrey Earnhardt struck the barrels at the end of pit road, bringing out the caution flag and trapping Blaney two laps behind the leaders who hadn’t stopped at that point.

Blaney regained one lap but was never able to get back the second, even as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team worked on his car during pit stops and improved its handling.

Although Blaney remained in position to advance to the second round of the playoffs throughout the race, there were some anxious moments in the final laps as the rear gear temperature rose to a problematic level.

But the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion showed its durability as Blaney nursed the car to the checkered flag.

That put him among the 12 drivers who will advance to the second playoff round, which begins next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

0d07ae32b076226a805cbad9d845ceb1-1 “It is definitely not the day we wanted, and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good,” Blaney said. “At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so, but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end.”

But, in the bigger, playoff picture, all was good in the end.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood commended his young driver for showing great poise in a difficult situation.

“We didn’t have the best car, but Ryan took what he had and made it to the second round of the playoffs,” Wood said. “He didn’t put himself in any bad spots, and he realized that it wasn’t about gaining positions, it was about making it to the end of the race.”

Blaney said that with the first playoff round behind him, he’s looking forward not only to the upcoming race at Charlotte but also to Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the other two tracks in the Round of 12.

“I think the tracks just play into our favor,” he said. “We are really fast at 1.5-mile race tracks and had a good run at Kansas earlier, and [on] speedways we run great.

“Charlotte, we had a broken axle earlier this year but we were pretty decent in that race before that happened. The 1.5-mile tracks seem to be our strong suit, and hopefully we can keep that up and keep making that our strong suit.”

Blaney enters the Round of 12 in ninth place in the standings with 3,008 points.