Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/SKF team salvaged a 15th-place finish in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway after a mid-race setback knocked them out a chance to contend for the victory.
Even so, Blaney and his Wood Brothers team gained a spot in the championship standings to 12th place. More importantly, a race victory by a previous winner (Kyle Larson) secured Blaney and the Motorcraft team a spot in the playoffs, the 10-race run to the championship that begins after three more races.
For the early portions of Sunday’s 400-miler, Blaney and the No. 21 Fusion showed their usual speed.
Blaney started 12th and was running sixth after just one lap. He maintained that spot until pitting for tires.He was 11th at the end of Stage One.
In Stage Two, Blaney worked his way back to sixth place at the finish and collected five bonus points.
It was the 18th time this season that Blaney has scored stage points, and it ran his total for the season to 164.
In the third and final stage, Blaney restarted fifth but received damage to the right front of the No. 21 Motorcraft/SKF Fusion just after the restart. He made an unscheduled pit stop for repairs, and his team spent the rest of the race working to regain the lost ground.
Blaney received the free pass to rejoin the lead lap and then began running good lap times despite the body damage to his car. His team’s strategy was foiled by a late caution, and they took the wave-around late in the race.
Just when it looked as if the No. 21 team was headed for a finish outside the top 15, Blaney gained five spots on a green-white-checkered-flag run and took the 15th position.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “We had a fast car and things just didn’t work out. We have fast cars every week and that gives us something to look forward to.”
Team co-owner Eddie Wood also took heart in the speed of the No. 21 Fusion.
“We had a fast race car early on and had some damage that set us back,” Wood said. “We were honored to have Mr. Edsel Ford II on our pit box again this weekend, and we were hoping to have a better result for him.”
“But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft team will return to work this Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.