Category Archives: 2016

Bullins Looks To Build On New Hampshire Performance

2016 NASCAR New HampshireRyan Blaney, his crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are steadily building a reputation for being able to bounce back from mid-race adversity to record good finishes.

But being able to pull off a comeback at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a tall order, given the relative shortness of the races there.

In Sunday’s 300-mile run, which ran caution-free for the first 124 laps, Blaney, who started 16th, fell a lap behind the leaders during the long green-flag run.

He, Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team spent the next several runs working to get in position to rejoin the lead lap.

Finally, on a caution period at Lap 241 for a spin by Michael Annett, Blaney was running 17th and in position to claim the “Lucky Dog” free pass.

From that point on, Blaney steadily moved forward and wound up with a 12th-place finish, his 12th top-12 finish of his rookie season.

Despite the successful recovery, Bullins had mixed emotions about the team’s finish.

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire “Obviously we didn’t quite have the handling we were looking for and needed some speed,” Bullins said. “At the same time I couldn’t be prouder of the fight and determination to keep working on our car, making it better, getting the lucky dog and salvaging a solid finish.”

Bullins said the experience gained in Sunday’s comeback will pay dividends down the road.

“We learned some things with our last couple of adjustments that woke our car up and got us going a little bit,” he said. “Ryan and the team kept digging all day, and to walk away with another good finish is something we can be proud of.”

“We have a lot of positive things happening right now and need to take advantage of them the next eight weeks.”

Blaney, Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to the track next Sunday at Dover International Speedway for the Citizen Soldier 400.

Blaney Qualifies 16th At New Hampshire; Looking For More Speed For Sunday

2016 NASCAR New HampshireRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team came up a little short in Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying session at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but Blaney and the team still feel they’ll have plenty of speed by the time the green flag drops to begin Sunday’s 300-mile race.

Blaney made it through the first of three rounds of knock-out qualifying, but he came up a bit shy of advancing to the final round and will start 16th on Sunday.

“Whenever you’re not in the last round you always think you missed it a little bit,” Blaney said. “I thought we lost a little bit of speed from practice to qualifying, which is not what you want, but I think there are some things we’ve learned and we can apply for next time here.”
Blaney said changing track conditions from practice to qualifying was a factor, but he also expressed confidence that his Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew would be able to use Saturday’s practice session to find more speed before Sunday.

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire“We’ve got some new stuff to try [Saturday] in race trim that I’m excited about,” Blaney said.

“We’ll see what that brings.”

Crew chief Jeremy Bullins said the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew used a chassis set-up that had proven to produce good speed at New Hampshire in the past, but it didn’t deliver as expected during qualifying.

“Maybe it’s time to try something a little different,” he said. “We have quite a few things to work through in tomorrow’s first practice to get ready to make some long race runs in happy hour.”

“I’m sure by the time tomorrow is over with we’ll have a better idea of what areas we need to focus on to be better.”

Sunday’s race is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Riding High Heading Into New Hampshire

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire Last weekend at the Chicagoland Speedway, Ryan Blaney, his crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew showed the NASCAR world that they’re capable of being legitimate contenders for race victories.

This weekend they’re looking to back that up with another strong run at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

At the end of Sunday’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 in Chicago, Bullins made the call to leave Blaney on the track on older tires, a decision that put him out front for an Overtime run to the checkered flag.  Blaney nailed the restart, despite his worn tires, and led for a time before the newer tires of his competitors prevailed and he finished fourth.

“Last week’s finish at Chicago was a lot of fun for our whole group,” Bullins said. “We know as a team that to be a championship-contending team we need to win races.”

“To be able to get to the top-10, overcoming several issues during the race, and having a shot to win at the end was all you can ask for.”

Bullins insists that his decision not to pit at the end wasn’t as gutsy as it might have seemed at the time.   “I had confidence in Ryan to get a good restart and give us a shot for the win,” he said. “Points aren’t too much of a concern for us right now, but getting to Victory Lane is worth a gamble every now and then.”

Bullins said the outcome, even though it wasn’t a victory, is a sign of better things to come for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

“If we can string together weekends like that, we all have a lot to look forward to,” he said.

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire With the momentum of a strong run behind them, Blaney and Bullins now head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which has become one of their better tracks, with the No. 21 Ford Fusion showing good speed in the three races the two have run there together.

“The first thing I’m excited about looking ahead to Loudon is the cool weather in the forecast!” Bullins said. “It’s been a hot summer, so I’m sure the guys will be up for a break in the temperatures too.”

In the first New Hampshire race of the season, on July 17, Blaney and Bullins were able to overcome a pit-road speeding penalty that dropped them to 24th one lap down and finish 11th.

“That was not an easy task as short as the race is there,” Bullins said, adding that such a comeback wouldn’t have been possible without a fast Ford Fusion. “We’ve had good speed both times we’ve raced there, and when you combine that with our experience, we get excited to have opportunities to improve on our most recent performances.”

Qualifying at New Hampshire is set for 4:45 p.m. on Friday, and the 300-lap main event is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Late-Race Strategy Call Nets Blaney A Fourth-Place Finish

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, ChicagoMissing the cut for the Chase for the Sprint Cup can be a mixed blessing, as Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team proved on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

With little to lose points-wise, non-Chase teams like Blaney’s are free to gamble on strategies designed to put them in position to win races.

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team did just that in Sunday’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 400. When the caution flag flew with seven scheduled laps left to run, setting up an overtime run to the checkered flag, crew chief Jeremy Bullins opted to stay on the track on older tires. That decision vaulted Blaney into the lead for what wound up being a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag.

Blaney was able to overcome the disadvantage of older tires on the restart and led the field for a half a lap before eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. and two other drivers with fresh tires were able to pass him.

Even though he wasn’t able to hang on to the lead in the final lap and a half, Blaney wound up with a fourth-place finish, his second fourth in the past four races, the first coming at Michigan International Speedway. It also was his third top-five finish of the season and the first time he’d led a Cup race this year.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Chicago“The decision wasn’t difficult at all,” Blaney said of the call to stay on the track on older tires.

“We kind of made that decision before everyone else came, and we had nothing to lose as far as points.”

“I wish a couple more cars stayed out. You never know. Those guys were on me so fast.”

“We gambled and I prefer to do that. I prefer to take a gamble to stay out and try to hold those guys off.”

Blaney didn’t just fall into a position to bid for the win.

He started 22nd after qualifying was rained out but methodically worked his way into the top-10 with about 100 laps to go. Being in seventh place when the final caution flag flew allowed him to assume the lead with five laps remaining when the leaders ahead of him headed to pit road for fresher tires.

His march forward also allowed him to lead on one other occasion for a total of eight laps led.

“We had a really good car all day,” Blaney said. “We started way back in the field and made it up there pretty quickly.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to the track next weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the New England 300.

Blaney, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Planning Championship-Caliber Effort At Chicagoland

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, MichiganRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team won’t be running for a championship this weekend at the Chicagoland Speedway, but they will be in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 and will be racing just as hard as they would have if they’d made the cut for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

That’s a major improvement over last year when Blaney and his then-part-time team showed up at Chicago with a fast Ford Fusion but did not get to race it.

Despite being ninth quickest in practice, Blaney missed the race when qualifying was cancelled because of weather and he didn’t have a provisional starting spot.

This year, under a new rule, the team will be in the field even if qualifying is rained out due to its position in the points standings.

“Mother Nature got the best of us last year in Chicago, with rain canceling qualifying before we could get an opportunity to put our Fusion in the show,” Buillins said. “That won’t happen this year as due to the new rules system we’d be locked in on points if rain canceled qualifying.”

“We certainly felt like we had a fast car last year, and this year should be no different. We had a very good test there a few weeks back, and we feel really prepared to go racing.”

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, MichiganBullins also said he, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are planning to put forth a championship-level effort even though they didn’t make the 10-race, championship-deciding Chase, which kicks off this weekend and ends with the Ford Championship Weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

”Obviously a few races over the summer months knocked us out of Chase contention, and that’s not where we wanted to be,” Bullins said. “But as I take a big-picture, long-term view I’m excited about the direction of our team.”

“If you look most recently at Bristol and Michigan we had cars that ran in the top five a lot of the day.”

“Darlington was a championship-type recovery coming from two laps down and damage repair for a lead-lap finish. We can’t win a championship but we can certainly take the last 10 races as an opportunity to grow as a team and work toward being a contender for years to come.”

He said it will take that kind of effort to find success in the final 10 races.

“You know the Chase teams will bring their best work the rest of the year, and we will push ourselves to be competitive against their best,” he said.

Qualifying for Sunday’s 400-miler is set for Friday afternoon at 6:45 and the race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Early Wreck Relegates Blaney, SKF Ford Team to a 39th-Place Finish at Richmond

2016 NASCAR RichmondA crash just 10 laps into Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway took Ryan Blaney and his SKF Ford team out of contention for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and eliminated any chance for a good finish in the race.

Blaney took the No. 21 SKF Fusion to the garage where his crew spent more than 100 laps patching up the damage. He returned him to the track and gained one spot to finish 39th.

Blaney described the contact with Trevor Bayne that preceded his spin into the wall as “unfortunate” and said one of his biggest regrets was not being able to deliver a strong race for sponsors SKF and Motion Industries.

“I thought I was clear,” Blaney said. “It is an unfortunate race deal.”

“I want to thank SKF for being on board. I wish we could have worked on our car and gotten it better throughout the night.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Richmond “It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to run to see where our car was going to go. That is the most unfortunate part about this. We didn’t even give ourselves a shot at it. That is something I will have regret about.”

“All we can do is go on to Chicago and try to do better there.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood praised his crew for getting the No. 21 Fusion back on the track and running with good speed despite considerable damage.

“They did a good job putting it back together,” Wood said. “Even with the car torn up, Ryan was turning some good lap times.”
Wood also said he’s glad his Wood Brothers team will get another chance to better represent SKF.

“They will be back on the car at Phoenix, and we will do our best to represent them well there,” Wood said.

The No. 21 team will be back with sponsor Motorcraft/Quick Lane this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway to begin the final 10 races of the 2016 season.

“Even though we won’t be a part of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, we will be racing at some of our best tracks,” Wood said. “Our team will bounce back from tonight’s disappointment, and we look forward to getting our share of the attention before the season ends with the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

 

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Overcomes Tough Night At Darlington To Finish 13th

2016 NASCAR DarlingtonWith bad luck and bad timing of caution flags threatening to turn the Southern 500 into a long, disappointing night for Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, the rookie driver and his crew never lost their focus and came back from multiple laps down to finish 13th.

It was Blaney’s 12th top-15 finish in the 25 races run so far this season.

With qualifying washed out by heavy rains from Hurricane Hermine, Blaney lined up 20th for Sunday’s 500-mile run in front of a large South Carolina audience on a weekend in which legends of the past were honored in keeping with the track’s signature throwback theme.

Blaney, driving the No. 21 Ford Fusion with a paint scheme honoring David Pearson and his success in the late 1970s, began moving forward from the drop of the green flag.

The first 100 laps of the race ran without a caution flag, and when the first one flew for a spin by Trevor Bayne, the timing of the caution left Blaney two laps behind the leaders. Blaney was running 13th when he made his pit stop, but with the caution flag flying just after he stopped, but before all the leaders had stopped, he was trapped two laps down.

Crew chief Jeremy Bullins opted to take the wave-around, starting a series of strategy calls that eventually brought Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion back to the lead lap.

In the meantime, Blaney earned a couple of Darlington stripes from brushes with the outside wall, but the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew, in another stellar performance, was able to make the repairs and return him to competition in short order.

2016 NASCAR DarlingtonFinally, with just 34 laps remaining, Blaney got the free pass that goes to the first driver a lap or more behind the leaders, and that put him 19th in the running order.

He moved up two spots before the race’s final caution flag allowed him to make one last trip to pit road, where his crew gained him another two positions.

Restarting 15th with 12 laps remaining, Blaney picked up two more spots to finish 13th.

“That’s a long race to begin with, and we made it longer by having bad racing luck with that caution early in the race which put us down two laps,” Blaney said. “Then I got into the wall in (turns) three and four that caused a flat tire, then got together with the 47 (A.J. Allmendinger) and we were down two laps.

“At about the halfway part of the race there wasn’t much to feel positive about, but the team kept working and battling and we ended up with a decent finish.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was proud of Blaney, Bullins and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team for continuing to work hard even though a lead-lap finish seemed hopelessly out of reach for much of the race.

“They kept fighting all night long,” Wood said. “And we had a really fast car for the second-straight week.”

2016 NASCAR DarlingtonWood said he also appreciated all the work that went into the throwback weekend, and the fact that more than a dozen members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame were in attendance, including his uncle Leonard Wood, who was joined by another famous Wood brother, Delano Wood.

“It was like good old Darlington,” Wood said. “It was neat to get to see a lot of my heroes.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane now head to Richmond International Raceway for Saturday’s 26th and final race of the “regular” season, where the field will be set for the 10-race, championship-deciding Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Blaney needs a win at Richmond to join the 16-driver Chase field.

No Darlington Conversation Is Complete Without Mentioning David Pearson

P-WB2-244This weekend at Darlington Raceway, in keeping with the track’s wildly popular throwback theme, the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will carry a paint scheme honoring David Pearson’s 1976 season, which saw him win 10 major races including the Southern 500.

Even without the throwback theme, Pearson’s name comes to mind most every time a conversation turns to Sprint Cup racing at Darlington Raceway.

“You can’t really talk about one without talking about the other,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion that Ryan Blaney will race this weekend and a crew member back when Pearson drove the iconic No. 21.

Even though Pearson hasn’t driven in competition at Darlington since 1985, he still leads all drivers in Cup wins there with 10, six of which came aboard a Wood Brothers Mercury. He also leads in Darlington poles with 12, nine of them earned while driving the Woods’ iconic No. 21.

He also remains the oldest driver to win a Darlington pole, at 47 years, eight months and 15 days.

Pearson’s stats are no surprise to anyone who ever watched him drive the track that bills itself the “Track Too Tough To Tame.”

Leonard Wood, Pearson’s long-time crew chief, says Pearson’s driving style matched up well with the Woods’ way of setting up a car, and the combination of Wood and Pearson made laps at Darlington look deceptively easy.

“He knew exactly when to back off and when to get back on it,” Wood said. In turn four, now turn two, Pearson would let the car drift up to the outside groove, ease out of the throttle, then turn left and head down the straightway, effectively allowing him more time running straight – and faster – than if he took a more conventional route through the turns.

The speed he generated with his unique line was a sight to behold, according to Wood.

“The car would kind of leap twice over the bumps, but it was completely straight, and he was just flying coming out of there.”

2010_3_001Ironically, for all of Pearson’s success at Darlington, he didn’t get his first Southern 500 win until the 1976 season, when he swept NASCAR’s big three races – the Daytona 500, the World 600 [now Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte] and the Southern 500.

He also won the spring race at Darlington that year.

In the Southern 500, he started on the pole, and led the first 11 laps before yielding to Bobby Allison.

That was typical for Pearson and the reason his Silver Fox nickname was so appropriate, Eddie Wood said. “He was kind of sly about it,” Wood said. “He usually started up front and would lead a few laps before settling in.

“You wouldn’t know what he had until there were about 100 miles left.”

Sure enough, in the 1976 Southern 500, Pearson retook the lead for Laps 36 and 37 but didn’t lead again until Lap 267. Then, with 45 laps remaining, he dispatched a young Darrell Waltrip and led the rest of the way to get the victory.

After his driving years ended, Pearson rarely attended races at most tracks but seldom skipped a race at Darlington, which he considers his favorite track. He also passed along his tricks for negotiating the track to many young drivers including his own son Larry, who won an Xfinity Series race at Darlington in 1995. He also helped Trevor Bayne when he drove the No. 21 and gave Ricky Craven some pointers that helped Craven beat Kurt Busch for the win in 2003, a finish many consider the best in Darlington history.

IMG_2115 For the 22-year-old Blaney, driving a David Pearson-themed car in Sunday’s Southern 500 means he has a lot to live up to.  Eddie Wood believes his young driver, who already shows a Pearson-like coolness under pressure, is up to the challenge.

“He will be just fine,” Wood said.

Qualifying for the Southern 500 is set for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. and the race is expected to get the green flag just after 6 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.

Blaney, Motorcraft/Quick Lane At Their Best In Finishing Fourth At Michigan

2016 NASCAR MichiganRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, 40 races into their time together in the Sprint Cup Series, had one of their best efforts yet in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. The rookie Blaney and his team, led by rookie crew chief Jeremy Bullins, overcame an early flat tire and damage to the hood of the No. 21 Ford Fusion to finish fourth, tying their career-best finish from Talladega Superspeedway a year ago.

Bouncing back from a disappointing end to the race at Bristol Motor Speedway the week before, Blaney qualified seventh and raced in or around the top five all afternoon at Michigan.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, MichiganThey did so despite an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire at Lap 42, a flat that left a small hole in the hood of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. With much of the race running under the green flag, and most pit stops occurring under green, Bullins elected to not spend the time repairing the car.

The call paid off, as Blaney was able to maintain his spot near the front despite the damage.

Then, when a caution flag flew with 13 laps remaining and Blaney running fourth but riding on older tires, Bullins opted to stay on the track and maintain the track position. That was a difficult decision as others running just behind Blaney stopped for fresh rubber.

On the restart and final run to the checkered flag, Blaney held his ground and scored his second top-five finish of the season and his seventh top-10 of the year.

Blaney said the outcome could have been even better if some of his fellow drivers had been able to get up to speed more quickly on the last restart.

“It is unfortunate it didn’t work out the best it could have,” he said. “[Restarts] are always crazy. Everyone is pushing to get the most they can. All you can do is hold on.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s proud of every member of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

“This was one of our best races since we’ve been together,” Wood said. “Ryan did a great job, especially realizing what the trouble was when he had that flat tire.”

“He got on pit road, and we got it fixed, and it didn’t hurt us a bit.”

“Jeremy made some great calls that I’m glad I didn’t have to make. That one at the end of the race to stay on the track was a tough one, but it was the right decision.”

“And the pit crew was just amazing. Every stop they made was in the 11-second range, and that’s really commendable.”

2016 NASCAR Michigan Wood also said that a good run was made even more special by it coming at the home track of Ford Motor Company and with Edsel Ford II and Henry Ford III on the team’s pit box.

“It’s always an honor to have them on the box with us, but it’s rewarding to have a strong run with them there to share it with us.”

Blaney said a good, solid run is just what the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team needs.

“These are the days this team deserves,” he said. “We always want to win in Ford’s backyard but we will go on to Darlington and try to get it done there.”

For the Southern 500, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion will carry a throwback paint scheme honoring David Pearson and his dominating 1976 season that saw him drive the No. 21 to 10 major victories including the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500.

Blaney Qualifies Seventh For The Pure Michigan 400

2016 NASCAR MichiganComing off a disappointing end to last Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Ryan Blaney and his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were looking to rebound at the Michigan International Speedway.

They did just that, posting the fourth-fastest time in opening practice and qualifying seventh for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.

It was his second straight top-seven qualifying effort and the sixth time this season he has qualified seventh or better.

Blaney’s qualifying lap at 201.202 miles per hour was just a tad off the 201.698 mph that his Ford teammate Joey Logano turned in winning the pole.

Blaney, who was 13th fastest in the first round of qualifying and seventh in the next two, said the difference in his and Logano’s qualifying time likely was his speed in turns one and two in the final round.

  “We were kind of tight in the second round and we tried to adjust it to get it better for the third round and didn’t quite get enough,” Blaney said. “I probably could have gone up on the track bar more and helped it. We were tight over in [turn] one and couldn’t roll the speed. I have to look at my comparisons with Joey and see where he beat me. I am sure it is all in one and two.”

“I probably tried to get too much there, but it wouldn’t turn.”

All-in-all it was a strong day for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, and Blaney is optimistic the good performance will continue through the weekend as the team transitions from preparing for qualifying to getting ready for Sunday’s race.

2016 NASCAR Michigan “It is a good start to the weekend, and we will see how we are tomorrow when we get into race trim,” he said. “We did all [qualifying] runs today, so we will have to switch over to race trim tomorrow and see how we are.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said qualifying well at Michigan, the home track for Ford Motor Company, is always important, and this week it comes as a welcome relief after a strong start to the previous weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway which ended with a crash in the race.

“We had a rough end to the race at Bristol, so it’s good to come back and be fast here at Michigan,” Wood said. “It’s always good to start up front here, and we’re proud of our Ford teammate Joey Logano and our friends at Team Penske for winning the pole.”

The Pure Michigan 400 is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.