Category Archives: 2016

Blaney Optimistic After Qualifying 15th At Martinsville

Martinsville 2The 25th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies set the weekend standards pretty high Thursday night with a 39-36 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers, but Ryan Blaney and the crew of his No. 21 Virginia Tech Ford Fusion believe they can do their part to make the Hokie faithful proud in this weekend’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Blaney, driving the burgundy and orange Fusion for the Wood Brothers from nearby Stuart, was eighth fastest in the opening round of qualifying on Friday at Martinsville. He was a tick of the clock slower in the second round, which puts him starting 15th for Sunday’s 500-lap grind on one of NASCAR’s shortest – but toughest – tracks.

Martinsville 1 “We don’t come out here to try to run 20th,” Blaney said in his post-qualifying comments, adding that there is still time to get additional speed out of the Virginia Tech Fusion before the start of Sunday’s race. “We’ll have a couple of race practices tomorrow and see if we can get a little bit better and work our way up during the race.”

“Obviously, you’re not happy when you don’t sit on the pole, but I thought there were some things we could take away from it and try to apply them for tomorrow.”

Although Blaney has just one Sprint Cup start at Martinsville, earlier this year in which he finished 19th, he does have five starts there in the Camping World Truck Series, where he recorded three top-five finishes and an eighth-place finish along with one front-row start.

Sunday’s race is set to get the green flag just after 1 p.m. with TV coverage on NBCSN.

The No. 21 Virginia Tech Ford Fusion Will Be The Home Team At Martinsville

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, BristolFor the Wood Brothers and their crew chief Jeremy Bullins, this week’s trip to Martinsville Speedway is like returning to the home place for a family reunion.

Both the Woods and Bullins consider Martinsville their home track, and their sponsor for the weekend, Virginia Tech, is from nearby Blacksburg.

This weekend’s race is a first at Martinsville for the Virginia Tech athletic program, but the Woods have been competing at Martinsville since the 1950s.

Bullins started out attending races there as a fan before beginning his career in NASCAR.

The Woods make their familiar 28-mile trek to Martinsville down U.S 58 from their home in Stuart, Va., before turning onto U.S. 220 just south of the track.

Bullins’ preferred route carries him over the backroads from his home just across the Virginia-North Carolina line in Walnut Cove before turning onto U.S. 220 at the state line.

“Whenever we go to Charlotte, the ‘home track’ phrase comes up a lot,” Bullins said. “For the 21 car, as well as for me personally, Martinsville is my home track. It’s also my favorite place we go all season.”

“Most of us come from short track backgrounds, and I guess I’ve been going to Martinsville since my dad would take me there at five or six years old.

I grew up a half hour away so maybe that’s why I’m so partial to it.”

The home track feeling takes on a new meaning this weekend as the No. 21 Fusion will be adorned with burgundy and orange colors of the Hokies.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, BristolVirginia Tech took its first ride on the No. 21 back in August at Bristol Motor Speedway.  The paint scheme and the association with the Hokies were a hit in the garage and in the grandstands at Bristol.

Team owner Eddie Wood said he’s proud to have Virginia Tech back on board for a race in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“It’s a real honor to be representing Virginia Tech, and it’s neat to be doing so at the home track for both of us,” he said, adding that he and the rest of the Wood Brothers crew are proud of the Hokies football team, which was 5-2 (3-1 in the ACC) heading into Thursday night’s game in Pittsburgh.

Bullins said he’s looking for a strong run this weekend at Martinsville, where the tight, paper-clip-shaped track tends to confound many a driver, especially rookies. But Ryan Blaney fared better than most in his Martinsville debut, qualifying 12th and finishing 19th in the STP 500 back in April.

“To come away with a lead-lap finish was pretty good for his first Cup race,” Bullins said. “A 500-lap race is a long time to stay out of trouble.”

“I know that experience will be big for us going into this weekend. He also did a remarkable job qualifying, making the final round.

“I look forward to see how competitive we can be on our second trip back there together.”

Qualifying for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 is set for Friday at 4:40 p.m. and the race is scheduled to start just after 1 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Blaney A Big Part Of A Powerful Talladega Performance By Ford Motor Company

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, TalladegaRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team put on a strong performance in the Hellman’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. On a day in which Ford Motor Company came away with a big win by Joey Logano and Team Penske, four other Ford Fusion drivers, including Blaney, finished in the top 11.

Ryan had one of his best runs in weeks as he led the 500 on two occasions and was in the runner-up spot for long stretches at a time before finishing 11th. He wound up saving his best performance for the end, when he drove from 21st to 11th on the final lap.

“Passing 10 cars on the last lap is like Earnhardt used to do,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said of Blaney’s last-lap dash. “We knew going into that overtime finish that restarting ninth, it was going to be three- and four-wide and wild.”

“Ryan got shuffled back but did a tremendous job recovering in a short time. He did a great job all day. We were in the top four nearly the entire second half of the race.”

Wood also offered his congratulations to his fellow Ford teammates on the No. 22 team for their Talladega win, which puts them in the Round of Eight in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

2016 NASCAR Talladega “I was watching them in the closing laps as much as I was Ryan,” Wood said. “I’m happy to see our Ford teammates in Victory Lane.”

Wood said his own team’s strong runs this season are due in large part to its alliance with Team Penske and all the support from Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Ford Performance.

“All year long we’ve had great cars and great equipment,” he said. “They are great people to work with.”

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane over-the-wall crew had another stellar afternoon. NASCAR’s pit road stat sheet shows the No. 21 crew at the top of the standings. On four stops, Blaney was on pit road for a total of just 2 minutes and 22.837 seconds, better than any other team on pit road.

To top it all off, Wood said, was the sight of a Talladega grandstand packed with enthusiastic fans.

“You can always count on Talladega to bring out the kind of crowd we all like to see,” he said.

Blaney and the No. 21 team now head to the Wood Brothers’ home track, Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s Goody’s 500, where the iconic Ford Fusion will carry the colors of Virginia Tech.

Blaney To Honor The Late Neil Bonnett At Talladega

IMG_3203Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are planning an encore presentation of their throwback theme first used at the Darlington Raceway earlier this season.

Blaney, at his own request, will wear the same uniform he wore during the Southern 500 to honor David Pearson.

At Talladega, he’ll wear the uniform in honor of both Pearson and the late Neil Bonnett, who was from Bessemer, Ala., and considered Talladega his home track.

Bonnett succeeded Pearson as driver of the iconic No. 21 midway through the 1979 season and used a uniform just like the one Pearson wore. Once aboard the No. 21, Bonnett won in his third start, at Dover International Speedway. He won twice more that season, at Daytona and Atlanta.

In 1980, he won back-to-back races at Pocono Raceway and Talladega. He won three more in 1981 and another in 1982, giving him nine wins in four seasons, all while running a limited schedule.

Photo Credit Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Photo Credit Don Hunter/Smyle Media

His 1980 win at Talladega was classic Neil Bonnett. He had the No. 21 out front seven times for 53 laps, but won the race in dramatic fashion.

A restart with seven laps remaining set up a shootout for the win between Bonnett, Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Yarbrough took the lead at the drop of the green flag, but Bonnett, who had been leading prior to the final caution flag, wasn’t done, as team co-owner Eddie Wood recalled.

“We were pulling a higher gear than anyone else,” Wood said of his team’s 3.00:1 rear gear ratio. “It took our car a couple of laps to get up to speed, but when it did get going Neil was faster than the others.”

It took Bonnett three laps to regain the lead, and he led the final four – just like the week before at Pocono – to score the win.

Behind him, Yarborough edged Earnhardt for second place with Parsons finishing fourth.

Wood said it was a popular victory for Bonnett, a member of the famed Alabama Gang who had a host of family members on hand to celebrate with him.

“For Neil, Talladega was just like Martinsville is for us,” Wood said. “There were all kinds of cousins there picnicking in the infield. That made it even more special for him to win there.”

Photo Credit Wood Brothers/Smyle Media

Photo Credit Wood Brothers/Smyle Media

It wasn’t just family that celebrated Bonnett’s win at Talladega. As a member of the Alabama Gang along with Donnie and Bobby Allison and Red Farmer, Bonnett had a strong following in his home state.

“I remember the first time I ever heard the term ‘Alabama Gang’ was when Neil was driving for us,” Wood said. “Eli Gold, the voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide and a NASCAR announcer said it on a radio broadcast.

I thought it sounded really cool.”

Wood said Bonnett loved racing at places like Talladega and Daytona because of the high speeds attained at those two tracks.

“He was one of those guys that loved to go fast,” Wood said, adding that Bonnett, who died in a crash during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500, had two other careers besides driving race cars.

“He was a pipefitter in the beginning and a broadcaster after his driving days started to wind down.”

“I’m really happy that Ryan wanted to wear the uniform this weekend to honor Neil, and I’m proud of the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team for backing him as we recognize one of the more popular members of the Wood Brothers racing family.”

Qualifying for the Hellman’s 500 is set for Saturday at 4:10 p.m. and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Emphasizes The Positives Of 14th-Place Finish At Kansas

2016 NASCAR KansasRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team came on strong at the finish of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway to claim a 14th-place finish. It was the team’s 15th finish of 14th or better in this their rookie season.

Blaney started 17th and ran in the top 15 for much of the race before moving forward as the laps wound down.

He was at his best at the very end, when he passed Tony Stewart then held off Denny Hamlin to take 14th. He was within striking distance of passing Kurt Busch when the checkered flag flew.

Team co-owner Len Wood said he was pleased to see the No. 21 Fusion running strong at the finish, and while he was a bit disappointed in the result, he considered that disappointment a product of the raised expectation he and others have placed on his race team.

“You kind of reset your goals as the season goes on,” he said. “Overall, we are very pleased with our performance this year.”

That was true on Sunday at Kansas.

“We had a good car at times,” he said. “We got off in the middle of the race, but we got it back.”

Wood went on to say that track position was a big factor on Sunday. That meant that if Blaney, or another driver, was fast in the high groove it made it difficult to pass other drivers also running that same groove.

2016 NASCAR Kansas Among the factors on the positive side for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, Wood said, was another smooth performance by the over-the-wall members of the team.

“They did a nice job all day, especially on the money stop at the end when they got Ryan back out in 10th place.”

Blaney was the top-finishing rookie in the 400 and the second-highest finishing Ford driver. He remains 20th in the driver points standings, which Wood says puts him on track to finish the season in the top 20, as well as help move the Wood Brothers up one spot to 20th in the owner standings.

“That would be a good run for us in our first full season in several years,” Wood said.

Now the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team heads to Talladega Superspeedway, a type of track where the No. 21 team has had some of its greatest success over the years.

“Daytona and Talladega have always been good tracks for us,” Wood said. “We should have a really good car for Talladega.”

Kansas Has Been A Happy Place For The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team

Kansas1After a disappointing finish at one of their home tracks, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head to one of their happy places, the Kansas Speedway.

For Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins, Kansas is where their Cup careers began back in 2014, when they ran the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske, qualifying 21st and finishing 27th.

Their Kansas races since then have been in the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion fielded by the Wood Brothers, and the results have been impressive.

Last fall, Blaney qualified eighth, led five laps and finished seventh. Back in May, he stepped it up a notch, qualifying seventh and finishing fifth.

That progression had Bullins thinking optimistically earlier this week as he oversaw the final preparations on the No. 21 Fusion.

“This should be a fun weekend with the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion,” he said. “Kansas has been a lot of fun for us as a team, and we have a lot of experience and notes to look back through.”

He pointed out that Blaney is adapting well to the 1.5-mile speedway as evidenced by his Kansas driver rating of 85.4, which is 16th on the list and puts him just behind Joey Logano and just ahead of Kyle Busch.

Bullins said that if Blaney’s first Cup race at Kansas wasn’t factored in, he’d be much higher.

Kansas2 “Ryan’s driver rating in the last two races at Kansas would have him in the top 5 on average, so it’s certainly somewhere we feel good about,” he said.

Bullins also said that despite the final outcome in the past two races, where a blown tire at Dover and being collected in a multi-car wreck at Charlotte ruined promising finishes, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion has had the speed to finish in the top 10 in both races.

“We’ve had fast cars for several weeks now, and the last two weeks haven’t ended like we wanted so I know everyone is ready to bounce back strong this week,” he said. “I feel like there’s no better place for us to get back in a good rhythm to finish off the season than Kansas Speedway.”

Qualifying for the Hollywood Casino 400 is set for Friday at 6:15 p.m. and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.

Multi-Car Wreck Ruins Blaney’s Run At Charlotte

2016 NASCAR CharlotteIn NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, there’s always a sense of dread when it comes to racing at the restrictor-plate tracks in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega, Ala. That’s because of the likelihood of drivers and their cars being knocked out of a race in a multi-car crash.

But Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway proved that car-crunching multi-car melees can happen at any time on any track.

On Sunday, a wreck that began at the front of the field on a Lap 260 restart damaged 12 cars including the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney. Being swept up in that crash ended a strong run for the rookie driver who spent much of the race up to that point inside the top 12. He also spent several long stretches inside the top 10.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said bad luck and wrecks are an unavoidable part of the racing business.

“You can have stretches where you have bad luck, and then you can go 10 races and not put a scratch on the car,” Wood said. “That’s just the way it works. We’ve been on both ends of it, and sometimes in the middle.”

Wood said he’s heartened once again by the performance of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

2016 NASCAR Charlotte “We had a fast car, again,” he said. “Ryan did a great job behind the wheel. [Crew chief] Jeremy [Bullins] made some good calls on the pit box, and the crew was impressive as usual.

“They were fast on every pit stop, and after the wreck, they were quick to put the car back together. That allowed us to salvage a 31st-place finish. We didn’t gain any positions, but we didn’t lose any either.”

The speed the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion has shown in recent races has Wood and the entire team anxious to get back on the track at the Kansas Speedway next weekend, where they scored a fifth-place finish earlier this season and a seventh-place in 2015.

“Coming off a top-five finish at Kansas in May, we’re really looking forward to getting back there and putting our back luck behind us,” Wood said.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Ready To Build On Charlotte Experience

2016 NASCAR Charlotte All-Star ShowdownRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have put a dreary Dover weekend behind them and are ready for a strong run in the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was fast at the Dover International Speedway last Sunday before a blown tire ended the team’s forward march.

“Waiting through rain delays all weekend and having a really fast car before blowing a tire wasn’t much fun,” crew chief Jeremy Bullins said. “At least this week’s race is on Saturday night, so we don’t have to wait as long for our next chance.”

“On the bright side we had speed again. We were about to crack the top 10 only a quarter of the way through the race before the tire failure.”

“We will put that behind us and take another fast car to the track this week.”

Blaney and Bullins had one of their best runs of the early portion of the season in the Sprint Showdown in May. In that non-points race for drivers not in the All-Star Race, Blaney and his fellow drivers took the green flag without a single lap of practice, due to rain beforehand.

2016 NASCAR DoverHe drove to the front and took the lead on a restart with one lap remaining in the opening segment. But series officials ruled that he jumped the restart, taking away a likely victory. Blaney pointed out that fellow front-row starter Chase Elliott spun his tires and that Trevor Bayne was pushing from behind, putting Blaney in a position where he was at the mercy of others.

Still, Bullins said the experience of that race will pay dividends this weekend.

“We had a great setup at the Showdown in May and will work off that for this weekend,” he said, adding that Charlotte is one of the tracks where he and Blaney have managed to get a fair amount of experience in their 47 career points-paying races in NASCAR’s elite Sprint Cup Series.

“It’s nice to be going back to places for the fourth or fifth time and have a good notebook to work from.”

There are other benefits to racing at a track that literally is just around the corner from the Wood Brothers’ race shop.

“It’s great to be home, no flights, no hotel beds, and eating at home will be the norm this week,” Bullins said. “The fall temps are starting to arrive, and Saturday night the track should have a lot of grip and make for an exciting race.”

“The guys on the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion have worked really hard all year to be fast, and this week will be no different.”

Qualifying for the Bank of America 500 is set for Thursday at 7:20 p.m., and the race should get the green flag just after 6:45 Saturday night, with TV coverage on NBC.

Blown Tire Makes Long Day Even Longer For Blaney

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, DoverHeading into Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400 at the Dover International Speedway, one of the big stories for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was the marathon drive planned for young Ryan Blaney.

After rain postponed the Xfinity Series race to Sunday morning, Blaney was poised to run 600 miles, as he was tapped to drive 200 miles in the No. 22 Mustang for Team Penske in addition to 400 more in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. Blaney took over the No. 22 in Sunday’s opener because its scheduled driver, Joey Logano, was focusing on the championship battle in the Sprint Cup Series.

Blaney sailed through the 200-lap Xfinity race on Sunday morning, finishing fourth, then after a brief break strapped into the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion for another 400 laps on the Monster Mile.

Blaney fired off from the 20th starting position after qualifying was rained out and the line-up set by points. He had a mediocre first run, but after his first pit stop and some chassis adjustments by his Jeremy Bullins-led crew, Blaney returned to the track with one of the fastest cars in the race.

He drove his way to 12th place by the 100-lap mark and was poised to continue his march forward when his right-front tire blew on lap 105, sending him slamming into the wall.

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew, despite the discouraging circumstance, went to work, repaired the No. 21 Fusion and sent Blaney back on the track midway through the race.
He ran a total of 281 laps in the Cup race and gained two spots to 38th, which was mathematically all he could gain after his extended stay in the garage.

In spite of the setback, Blaney was emphasizing the positives as he spoke with reporters while his team repaired his car.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Dover “We were running pretty good before [the blown tire], and I wasn’t really getting tight, I was kind of just riding around,” he said. “We’ll have to look at it and see what happened, but it’s a shame.”

“We got our car pretty good that second run and were driving up through the field pretty good. I would have liked to see what we would have had if we had a couple more chances to work on it.”

He expressed his appreciation for his team and its determination to make his car better at every opportunity.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t run good today, but it’s a testament to our team of not starting very good and getting a lot better in one pit stop,” he said. “So that’s something we can take away.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to the track this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the Bank of America 500 is set for Saturday night.

Rain Or Shine, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Ready To Go At Dover

Dover1Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have run just one race together at the Dover International Speedway, site of this weekend’s Citizen Soldier 400. In their one appearance there back in May, Blaney, with the help of his spotter Josh Williams, managed to miss the wrecks that seem to happen almost instantly on the high-banked concrete oval and delivered an eighth-place finish.

Blaney also has had success at Dover in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races at the Monster Mile.

He has a pole and three top-seven finishes in three truck series starts, including a second-place run. Last year in the Xfinity Series, he sat on the pole and finished fourth.

He’s never qualified for a Cup race at Dover. In May, qualifying was washed out by rain, and there’s rain in the forecast again this weekend.

Dover2 “Friday’s forecast looks like a washout, so we may have to wait until 2017 to run our first laps in qualifying at the Monster Mile,” crew chief Jeremy Bullins said, adding that he and Blaney don’t have any notes from previous qualifying sessions to use if it doesn’t rain on Friday afternoon. But rain at other times still could present challenges.

“The weather always makes it interesting as the track changes so much as it rubbers up, and every time it rains hard all the rubber gets washed away,” he said. “We could face a green track every day.”

Bullins said he has confidence in Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team no matter how the weather situation plays out.

“Regardless, we feel like we are hitting our stride and look to continue that momentum this weekend,” Bullins said. “Dover is a place we ran top 10 in our first trip there together, and we obviously feel like we’ve grown a lot in the several months that have passed.

“Having a good baseline to work from will give us a jump start on the weekend.”

Qualifying for the Citizen Soldier 400 is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. and the race is expected to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.