Category Archives: 2017

Blaney Hoping The Stars Line Up At The 600

IMG_9093Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, wasn’t even born when his Wood Brothers team won the Coca-Cola 600 in 1987 with Kyle Petty driving.

But he can appreciate the significance of that milestone victory. It was Petty’s first superspeedway win, the Woods’ fourth in the 600-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the team’s 70th on a superspeedway. And it came on the same afternoon that Al Unser won his fourth Indianapolis 500.

Petty won the 600 in a Ford Thunderbird sponsored by Citgo and 7-Eleven, the car that will be represented in the team’s throwback scheme for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in September.

In the meantime, Blaney would like to earn a 600 trophy of his own on Sunday.

8ed58fb90c40a978d807aa35689eda7e-1“That would be really special to be able to do that for the Wood Brothers,” he said in a media session on Thursday. “That would be really cool and then the 30th anniversary to when Kyle won it would be even more special.

“I think we have the team to do it, we just have to do our jobs and stay in it for all 600 miles and position ourselves at the end of this race to have a shot at it.”

Back in 1987, Petty, like Blaney today, was in his third season driving the iconic No. 21 Ford. He qualified seventh, as Blaney did on Thursday.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood remembered May 24, 1987, as one hot afternoon.

It also was a day of heavy attrition, one that left Petty and Rusty Wallace alone in the lead lap as the laps wound down.

While many top contenders had engine problems, the Woods’ powerplant, prepared by Tommy Turner, Leonard Wood and Len Wood, never missed a beat.

Turner, a veteran of the Holman-Moody shops, prepared the short block. The cylinder heads and the rest, plus the dynamometer testing, was done by the Woods at their shop in Stuart, Va.

“Kyle had run up front most of the day, but it looked like Rusty was going to win the race and we were going to run second,” Wood recalled. “Then Rusty had engine trouble, and we led the rest of the way from there.”

Petty wound up leading the race on three occasions for a total of 35 laps, including the final 17, to earn his second career victory and the Woods’ 94th overall.

Morgan Shepherd, who later drove for the Woods, finished second while Petty’s father Richard was fourth.

IMG_9152Wood said he remembers that he, his brother Len and Petty took time to savor the victory.

“Kyle and Len and I were the last ones to leave Victory Lane,” he said. “And we ate our victory dinner at a Golden Corral in Salisbury later that night.”

Eddie and Len Wood have often said that some of the most enjoyable years of their NASCAR careers were when Kyle Petty was their driver.

Petty indicated in a Twitter post on Friday, one that included a Victory Lane photo from Charlotte, that he felt the same way.

“Special years with @woodbrothers21. We’ve been family ever since,” he wrote.

Strong Run at Charlotte Earns Blaney His Sixth Start of Seventh Or Better In Past Seven Races

9cd8f45e36b136ad5a87bc710b3f1810-1Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team showed their qualifying prowess once again by earning the seventh starting spot for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney advanced to the third and final round of knock-out qualifying Thursday night and secured his sixth start of seventh or better in the past seven races. He now has eight top-seven starts in the 12 qualifying sessions so far this year, including a seventh-place start at Martinsville Speedway where rain washed out qualifying and the starting line-up was set by points.

At Charlotte, Blaney was eighth fastest in the opening practice session with a best lap at 191.884 miles per hour.

In qualifying, he and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team continued their recent trend of improving as the session progressed. He was eighth fastest in the opening round with a lap at 190.342 mph, then picked up to 191.496 mph in the second round to record the sixth-best speed.

Then in the final round he once again increased his speed, this time to 191.734 mph, which placed him seventh in the line-up for Sunday’s race.

6e000706abd82a7c5e03a66ce4f10a83-1 Crew chief Jeremy Bullins said he, Blaney and the rest of the Wood Brothers team were pleased with their performance.

“We have had speed in qualifying at Charlotte and not capitalized on that in the final round,” Bullins said. “Today was a big step, and we made good adjustments and Ryan got faster every round.

It puts us in a good spot going into Sunday’s race, and we want to move forward from there.”

The Coca-Cola 600 is set to get the green flag just after 6 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.

A 600 To Remember

13321757_10153943203773145_5550636643570055952_nFor automobile racing fans, Memorial Day weekend is about as good as it gets. From the Formula One circuit’s Monaco Grand Prix early Sunday morning to the Indianapolis 500 at noon followed by the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in the evening, auto racing is center stage in the sports world.

But Memorial Day weekend also is a somber time, as the nation honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country in the armed forces.

Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be representative of both aspects of Memorial Day weekend as the No. 21 Fusion will carry the name of the late U.S. Army Sgt. Gregory Belanger, who was killed on Aug. 27, 2003, in Hallia, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It’s a part of NASCAR’s annual 600 Miles of Remembrance, a way of honoring American fighting men and women who gave their lives in service of their country.

Greg pictBelanger, who was serving with the U.S. Army Reserves, died when an improvised explosive struck his convoy vehicle. Belanger, who was from Deerfield, Mass., but was living in Narragansett, R.I., at the time of his death, was the first soldier from Rhode Island to die in Iraq since the start of U.S.-led military operations there. He was just 24 years old.

Belanger graduated from Johnson and Wales University in 2001 with a degree in Culinary Arts. He was first called to active duty to serve as a cook following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and his unit covered for the 92nd Airborne Division from Ft. Bragg, N.C.

He returned to active duty in 2003, serving again in Iraq with the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, attached to the 94th Regional Readiness Command.

Kathleen Belanger told reporters after her son’s death that he was an excellent and creative chef.

“He was a whiz,” she said. “He was creative and could take whatever was in the refrigerator and pull out this gourmet dish from his soul and his head.”

She also thanked those who remembered him by placing a sign with his name on it in his hometown of Deerfield.

“People have not forgotten the war,” she said. “They haven’t forgotten how it can change a family’s life so dramatically.”

For Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, it’s important for the team to have a strong run at Charlotte, both from a competitive standpoint and to honor Sgt. Belanger.

“You always want to do a good job of representing your team and your sport and your country on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to win the 600 four times, and we’d love nothing more that to get a fifth with Ryan Blaney.”

The Wood Brothers won the 600 twice with David Pearson, in 1974 and 1976, with the late Neil Bonnett in 1982 and with Kyle Petty in 1987.

“Our cars have been fast every week, and Ryan’s doing a great job of driving them,” he said. “He won a stage last Saturday to get us in the All-Star race, and I’m confident the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion will be a factor come Sunday night.”

Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 is set for Thursday at 7:15 p.m., and the race is scheduled to start just after 6 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.

Wood Brothers Choose Kyle Petty’s 1987 Ford Thunderbird For Darlington Throwback Paint Scheme

21_2017_DarlingtonThe throwback paint scheme that Ryan Blaney’s No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will sport in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway gives team owners Eddie and Len Wood a chance to recognize some of the most fun times of their decades in NASCAR.

The No. 21 Ford Fusion will carry a red, white and blue paint scheme reminiscent of the 1987 season when Kyle Petty was their driver and the team’s Ford Thunderbird carried the colors of Citgo and 7-Eleven.

“That was a really special time for Len and me,” Eddie Wood recalled.

A collaboration between the Woods and the Pettys, who had been competitors – but friends as well – for years, seemed risky for those who weren’t close to either family.

But it was the right move at the right time for both.

It started with the 1985 season and continued through 1988.

Photo Credit: Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Photo Credit: Don Hunter/Smyle Media

“Kyle had been running with sponsorship from the Southland Corp. of Dallas, which owned Citgo, 7-Eleven and Chief Auto Parts,” Wood said. “Things were changing at Petty Enterprises, and he needed somewhere to go.

“And we needed to be running all the races.”

To mark the union of a Petty and the Woods, a mock wedding was held in the media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“There were people who said it would never work, but it worked perfectly,” Wood said.

Petty, who like the Woods’ current driver Ryan Blaney, was relatively young when he took over the car, just 24 years old. Len Wood was 28 and Eddie was 32.

“Kyle was younger than us, but he’d always been around, so we didn’t have to build a relationship,” Wood said. “It was already there.”

The three young men, all members of established racing families, had the times of their lives. They traveled together to the races and to wind tunnel tests, and Petty spent a good bit of time at the Woods’ shop in Stuart, Va.

The relationship produced good results on the race track too. In their second year together, Petty got his first career win, at Richmond International Raceway. He is one of several drivers, including team founder Glen Wood, Tiny Lund, Dale Jarrett, Elliott Sadler and Trevor Bayne, to get his first Cup win in a Wood Brothers car.

“Hopefully we can get Ryan Blaney his first Cup win too,” Wood said.

IMG_9152 Petty also won the Coca-Cola  600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1987 (then known as one of the Triple Crown races), joining a list of drivers who scored multiple wins for the Wood Brothers. That list includes Glen Wood, Speedy Thompson, Marvin Panch, Dan Gurney, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, AJ Foyt and Neil Bonnett.

From 1985 to 1988, Petty scored 19 top-five and 48 top-10 finishes. He finished in the top 10 in points for three straight years.

The 1987 season turned out to be their best, with the win in the Coca-Cola 600, five other top-five and 13 top-10 finishes and a seventh-place finish in the championship standings. Petty also finished 14th in the Southern 500 that year.

Just as the Woods and Blaney today benefit from their relationships with their friends at Motorcraft and Quick Lane, the team was helped in the Petty era by Larry Brittain, the senior vice president of marketing for Citgo.

It was Brittain who made the decision to put the iconic No. 21 back on the Woods car for 1987 after it carried a No. 7 to match sponsor 7-Eleven for the two previous seasons.

“The first thing Larry Brittain did when he took over was to put the 21 back on the car,” Wood said.

IMG_9150  Wood said that during their time together, and in the years since, he’s been impressed with what Petty has been able to accomplish, both on and off the track.

“When he was with us, Kyle used to build his own aluminum seats,” Wood said. “He won a total of eight Cup races. He’s a talented singer and guitar player. He’s done great work with the Victory Junction Camp and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, and he’s an excellent TV commentator.

“Kyle can do anything he wants to do. He’s that talented. We’re happy to have his name back on our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion for the Southern 500 at Darlington.”

Spirited Run In The Monster Energy Open Earns Blaney A Spot Among NASCAR’s All Stars

d8ee06da5af9e9dd9a9812394923b82e-1 It took a determined drive in Stage Two of the preliminary Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway to do it, but by winning that segment Ryan Blaney put his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team back in NASCAR’s All-Star race for the first time since 2012.

Blaney qualified second fastest for the Open, the last chance race for drivers not already assured of a berth in the All-Star race. He finished second in the first 20-lap segment then bolted into the lead on the start of the second 20-lapper and held the top spot through the finish to earn a starting spot in the All-Star race.

Once in the main event, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were forced to try different strategies to overcome their starting position at the back of the pack.

Crew chief Jeremy Bullins opted to use the team’s single set of softer tires in the opening segment, hoping that would allow Blaney to quickly move up and thereby improve his average finish in the three 20-lap segments and earn a spot in the 10-lap finale.

But the softer tires turned out to be little help as he was boxed in on the outside groove and only managed to move up three positions to 15th.

“We got a few rows on the start and then things got jumbled up and we went back to where we started,” Blaney said. “That was kind of the end of it.”

Back on regular tires for the second segment, he finished 16th. Knowing the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team needed to improve its average finish to advance to the finale, Bullins opted to change just two tires for the third 20-lapper, a call that put Blaney on the outside front row for the restart but also at a disadvantage, grip-wise.

Blaney led briefly but faded to ninth at the finish, still a gain of seven spots from where he likely would have started had the team changed four tires.

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series “It’s really the only strategy we’ve got,” he said. “It’s not great track conditions, to be honest with you. It’s just on the bottom [groove].

“We had to try something to get our average up or try to win a stage and that’s what we tried.”

As it was, he was credited with an 11th-place finish overall for the All-Star race, best among the drivers not advancing to the final round.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was happy just to have made the big show.

“I told all the crew that I was proud of them for getting us into the All-Star race,” Wood said. “By having to race our way in through the Open, we were behind the eight-ball from the start. Ryan and Jeremy and the team threw everything they could at it, but getting from the back to the front was tough.

“It was a huge accomplishment just making the race, and that’s the takeaway from tonight for us.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to Charlotte Motor Speedway this week for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night.

21 Team Reflects on 21 Years, All-Star Race

9e199e8e666be2f510c4161458d2cd3b-1Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head into the Monster Energy All-Star weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway needing a stage win in the preliminary Monster Energy Open to earn a berth in the main event.

But as Michael Waltrip’s victory in the 1996 All-Star race proves, it is possible for an Open driver, one who hasn’t won a points-paying Cup race in the past two seasons, to win the main event.

Waltrip, driving the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford, finished fifth in the Winston Open back in ’96, but went on to win the main event, then known as the Winston, becoming the first Open driver to win it all.

For Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, the initial challenge is to win one of the three stages of the Open, which will be run in three segments – two 20-lappers followed by a 10-lap finale. One additional driver will earn a starting spot by winning a fan vote.

In 1996, Waltrip’s first year with the Wood Brothers and his 12th in NASCAR’s elite series, the team came to Charlotte with four top-10 runs to start the season.

Engine builder Danny Glad had prepared a particularly powerful engine, and Waltrip and the team’s current co-owners Len and Eddie Wood had collaborated on the chassis set-up.

“Michael was always good about keeping good notes, so he had good ideas about what he wanted under the car,” Eddie Wood said.

To win the final transfer spot, Waltrip had to outrun Johnny Benson, driving the No. 30 Pontiac that Waltrip had left to join the Woods. But a lesson learned in that race played a major role in his win in the main event.

Waltrip  “I had been sort of running in the middle in [Turn Three], and the way my car was handling it was really tight,” Waltrip recalled years later. “I didn’t know what would happen if I went to the bottom because it could have pushed and messed me up. But I did it, and I was able to make it stick, and when I came off Turn Four I noticed I had put a couple of carlengths on [Benson].

“I did that again another lap and it got better. I found something battling with Johnny late in the Open that I used the rest of the night.”

Once the team qualified for the All-Star race, there was little time to change anything.

“I think we put spring rubbers on all four springs to give us some adjustability, but since the Open, like this year, was run just before the Winston, there wasn’t time to do much,” Wood recalled.

There also was little time to tinker with tires, which was a big focus for race teams at that time.

“We had all built tire dynos to check things like sidewall stiffness,” Wood said, adding that he was relieved when NASCAR later outlawed the use of the tire dynos. “That night, we rolled our tires over from the Goodyear building and ran them without sizing them or anything.

“We just bolted them on and raced them.”

In the Winston, Waltrip started in the rear of the field and raced his way into 10th place by the end of the first segment.

The field was inverted at that point, but Waltrip had decided not to play games, figuring that it was more important to know how his car would perform moving through the field than to lay back and get a better starting spot for the next segment.

He finished fourth in the second segment, which put him starting fourth in the run for the big money – $200,000 at that time compared to $1 million this weekend.

On his way to victory, Waltrip passed some of the sport’s all-time best drivers – Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte and the late Dale Earnhardt.

“The key move I made was I was able to get around Rusty [Wallace] on the back straightaway,” Waltrip said. “I cleared him on the back straightaway and got right to the bottom in Turns Three and Four.

“Going into Turn One, Dale got a little bit loose, and he and Terry bumped. As fast as I could, I turned left and held it on the bottom and passed them both.”
From then on it was Waltrip’s race to lose, but he never bobbled.

“I ran the best eight and a half laps of my career at that point,” he said. “I hit it perfectly and was able to hold Rusty off and win.”

Len Michael and Eddie For the Wood Brothers, the victory was their most lucrative up to that point, and it provided them with a victory that bridged the gap between Morgan Shepherd’s victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1993 and Elliott Sadler’s win at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2001.

And as Len Wood has often pointed out, it was a major win, even if no championship points were awarded.

“The winner’s check was a little over $211,000,” he said. “Some people said that win didn’t count because it didn’t pay points, but it counted at the bank.”

Qualifying for the Open is set for Saturday at 4:35 p.m., and the race is set to get the green flag at 6 p.m.

The All-Star race is scheduled to start just after 8 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.

Blaney, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Finish Fourth After Mistake-Free Weekend At Kansas

e533c2ae18b2d3f1b5ee4778a23636c7-1When the Wood Brothers and their backers at Ford Motor Company decided in 2009 to take the Motorcraft/Quick Lane back to a part-time schedule and regroup, the long-term goal was to build the No. 21 team back to an outfit that was capable of turning in a performance like the team delivered in Saturday’s 400 at Kansas Speedway.

A little more than a year after the team returned to full-time competition, driver Ryan Blaney, crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane team had a mistake-free weekend that saw Blaney win his first pole in NASCAR’s elite series, then compete for the win all the way until the final laps.

Blaney wound up finishing fourth after leading eight times for 83 laps, winning Stage Two and finishing third in Stage One. He scored a total of 51 points, a career best for the sophomore driver.

Bullins and his support staff were spot-on with their pit strategy, and the over-the-wall crew was able to capitalize on the Number One pit stall and return Blaney to the track with the race lead on several occasions and gained him positions on nearly every stop.

In the end, the way the race played out, Blaney was unable to capitalize on the strengths of his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion and lost out to competitors whose cars were faster at that point.

“I felt like we were the best car from maybe 15, 20 laps, especially if we were out front,” he said. “We got that caution at the end and beat the 78 [race winner Martin Truex Jr.] off pit road.

“I thought we were in a pretty good spot, and he made a really good move on that restart and was able to pass us, and then we had a couple more opportunities towards the end of that race, and he got a couple really good restarts and I didn’t, and that was kind of the deciding factor.”

Still his thoughts were mostly positive after one of his team’s best performances.

“A good showing, going out there and leading laps and running with some really good cars – that’s where this team deserves to be, and that’s where they hopefully will stay,” he said. “We keep bringing fast cars to the race track like that, you never know when maybe one might fall our way.”

Blaney also said the strong Kansas run helps his team put a disappointing three-week stretch behind them as they head into two weekends of racing on the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.

bac2096f3d737b3f67b62ab0f58a1bb0-1 “It’s really just nice to be back on track,” he said. “It was nice to show our muscle this weekend and prove that this is where the 21 team deserves to be…

“[We’re] going to a few race tracks that are pretty good for us, Charlotte, and then we’ll keep moving on.

“Of course we wanted to win, but at the same time, you look at the gains we made all weekend and really being fast all weekend, that puts us back to where we need to be for sure.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood, like Blaney, left Kansas pleased with the way his team delivered under pressure, and with it’s good fortune after a stretch of bad luck.

“You feel fortunate to get out of there with a good finish given all the craziness out there,” he said. “We could have very easily gotten torn up and finished 30th, but Ryan drove a great race, Jeremy called a good race, and the pit crew was the best on pit road.”

Wood pointed out that his team was a legitimate contender for the victory all the way to the checkered flag.

“I really want to thank Motorcraft/Quick Lane, Ford Performance and all the people at Ford Motor Company, for putting us back in a position where we can be in contention for the win at the end of these races,” he said.

After Kansas, Blaney moved up two positions in the Cup standings to 11th place headed into the All-Star Weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion Win The Pole At Kansas

8a088622d1b62a3cbdc962c58cee0c36-1Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team took another big step in their building process by winning the pole for Saturday’s 400 at Kansas Speedway.

It was Blaney’s first career Cup pole, and it came in his 65th race. It was the 117th pole for his Wood Brothers team, which has now won poles with 12 drivers, including team founder Glen Wood, who won the team’s first pole at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 12, 1958, and went on to win the team’s next five poles and 14 altogether. The most recent pole winner before Blaney was Ricky Rudd, who earned the pole at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2004.

Blaney, who has qualified on the outside pole three times this season, said it was “really nice” to finally earn the top starting spot.

“We have been second three times this year and they have all been really close,” he said. “It is nice to be on the other side of it. I can’t be more proud of everyone on the 21 team.”

One of the keys to his success on Friday at Kansas – and in earlier qualifying sessions this season – was his team’s ability to make the car faster for each of the three rounds of knockout qualifying.

In qualifying, Blaney was sixth fastest in the first round with a lap at 188.798 miles per hour and fourth best in the second round with a lap at 189.480 mph. The he ran a lap at 189.600 mph to take the pole.

ee3e64488066c14346c9fc4c37269e3c-1 “We got better and better each round,” Blaney said. “That’s all you can ask for.”

On Friday, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was among the leaders in practice as well, posting the second-fastest lap in opening practice and the fourth-best in the final Happy Hour practice.

Blaney explained that his team has improved since last year due in large part to hard work over the off-season and a lot of support from Ford Motor Co.

“Ford and everybody have made a big dedication to our team, really all the Ford teams,” he said.

“They have stepped up. I think you see it this year, not only in qualifying but racing as well.

“That is what it boils down to. It is nice to be part of a team that is so hardworking and dedicated to be faster every week. It feels nice as a driver.”

Starting just behind Blaney are three other Ford drivers in the top six – outside pole-sitter Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch.

Blaney said that while he’s especially proud of the pole, Saturday’s race is another matter altogether.

ee3e64488066c14346c9fc4c37269e3c-1“Obviously they are two completely separate things, and you can’t set your hopes too high from getting the pole or starting well,” he said. “The race will be completely different when it cools down tomorrow night. Race trim will be completely different, but I thought our race trim car [in practice] was pretty good to where we can make minor adjustments on it.”

Blaney also said that he and crew chief Jeremy Bullins have a fair amount of experience at Kansas, where they both made their Cup debut in 2014.

“I feel like we have good notes here from previous years to look back on and adjust accordingly to what we need,” he said. “That is another thing we have done well this year. We have qualified well but we can adjust from practice to the race to be able to run up front and make minor adjustments instead of throwing everything at it.

“I think we have a decent shot at it. I just can’t really tell you right now. I will let you know about Lap 30 tomorrow.”

The 400 is scheduled to start just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday (7:30 Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Looking To Build On Texas Success At Kansas

13124760_10153892037078145_5636632191060202688_nRyan Blaney and Jeremy Bullins head back this weekend to where it all started for them on the Cup circuit.

The driver and crew chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion made their debut in NASCAR’s elite series back in 2014 at Kansas Speedway in a Team Penske Ford.

Since moving to the Wood Brothers’ team, Blaney and Bullins have had some strong runs at Kansas as evidenced by their average finish there of 8.7 since they joined the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

The prospects for this weekend look bright, Bullins said, especially given the exceptional speed the No. 21 Ford has shown this season.

“One thing you can’t argue is that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion has been fast each and every week in 2017,” he said. “While the last couple weeks haven’t ended how we wanted we had the speed we needed to be competitive.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Homestead “I’m excited to get back to an intermediate track for a few weeks because I felt like our run at Texas gave us a lot to build off of for the summer, and I think we can apply a lot of what we learned there to Kansas.”

Back in April at Texas Motor Speedway, Blaney qualified on the outside pole and dominated most of the race, leading 148 laps and winning the first two stages before late-race setbacks dropped him to 12th at the finish.

Kansas, like Texas, is an intermediate-length track, and the pavement there is still fresh enough to make it race much like Texas, especially since the Kansas race will be run under the lights, the first night race of the Cup season.

“While the asphalt at Kansas has started to age some since their last repave, I wouldn’t put it completely in the old surface category just yet,” Bullins said. “I’m also a big fan of night races so Saturday night races are fun for me.

“The track will have more grip than the daytime and should be fast, which is right up our alley.”

Qualifying for the 400 is set for Friday at 5:45 p.m. (6:45 Eastern Time), and the race is scheduled to start on Saturday just after 6:30 p.m. (7:30 Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.

Late Crash Leaves Blaney 39th At Talladega

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, TalladegaIn an interview on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway, Ryan Blaney told reporters that you never know what’s going to happen during races at the mammoth 2.66-mile track and that trouble could come at any point on the track.

On Sunday, he was proof of that. After a strong run that saw him earn 10 championship points in the first two stages of the GEICO 500, Blaney was the victim of a crash with less that 30 laps remaining.

His No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was too damaged to continue and he was left with a 39th place finish. But with several other top drivers also being collected in crashes, Blaney didn’t take much of a hit in the championship standings. He dropped just one spot to 13th.

The disappointing finish marked a third straight week that bad fortune plagued Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team. Mechanical problems left him with a finish of 33rd at Bristol, and a crash left him 36th at Richmond.

Blaney vowed to put the bad luck behind him when he and the team hit the track at Kansas Speedway next weekend.

“I haven’t gotten torn up too much [at Talladega] in the past, and I guess I was due one, but it wasn’t the week we needed,” he said. “It’s been a few rough weeks in a row, but all you can do is get over it and move on.”

He said he wasn’t sure exactly what transpired when he was bounced into the wall as the lead pack tried to bypass the slower car driven by Gray Gaulding.

e5134ae5a8fc7878e42bc5763b2b092f-1 “All I know is we kind of got stacked up, and I got turned from behind,” he said. “I thought we had a pretty decent car. I was trying to work our way back up there and actually made a bad move that put us back in that spot, but we were trying to make gains and just got run into, which is unfortunate.”

For most of the race, Blaney had the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion in the lead draft. He finished ninth in the first 55-lap stage and was third in the second.

He said the race, up to the point he wrecked, wasn’t as calm as it might have seemed to some observers.

“We were racing hard, we just luckily didn’t wreck a few times,” Blaney said, “The first wreck of the day was maybe a little bit late for what people think, but I thought it was good racing until then.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood, despite his disappointment, offered hearty congratulations to two big winners at Talladega on Sunday –Jack Roush, the owner of the winning No. 17 driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and track president Grant Lynch and the staff of Talladega Superspeedway, who worked hard to attract a great crowd for Sunday’s race.

“We’re really happy to see Jack Roush back in Victory Lane,” Wood said. “He’s been both a great friend and a big part of the Ford racing team for a long, long time,” Wood said. “And we’re happy for Grant and his staff. The crowd was huge. It was a big day for everyone in the sport to see a place packed like Talladega was today.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to the track next week at Kansas Speedway for Saturday night’s 400.