Category Archives: 2017

Blaney Shows Budding Road-Course Skills With Ninth-Place Finish At Sonoma

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, SonomaRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, having already proven this season that they are capable of great finishes on superspeedways and intermediate tracks, added road courses to that list with a strong run at Sonoma Raceway.

In his second Cup start at the California track, Blaney started seventh, finished ninth and picked up 11 stage points along the way via finishes of fourth in the first 25-lap stage and seventh in the second.

He ran in the top 10, and as high as second place for much of Sunday’s race, but spent the latter portions working his way forward following his final pit stop. That stop, which left him in 26th place when he rejoined the race, was more lengthy than usual as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew had to deal with body damage from contact earlier in the race.

“The guys did a good job getting the tires off and pulling the fenders out so there wouldn’t be a tire rub,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said, adding that the final outcome, like many other road races on the circuit, was determined in large part by race strategy.

He said crew chief Jeremy Bullins made some good calls.

“The strategy Jeremy played worked out and helped us get a top-10 finish,” Wood said.

Blaney, who was running on a road course in the Cup series for just the third time, said he was pleased with the outcome.

“It was pretty physical out there,” he said. “We had a long green-flag run there at the end. There were some different strategies, and we kind of played to the side of if there was a caution at the end we would be in a good spot. That is why we had some of the oldest tires out there.”

“We were still able to make moves and pass some cars.”

“It is good to end up about where we should have, where we deserved. A big improvement from last year so that is nice.”

“It is a good run for us and hopefully bodes well for Watkins Glen as well.”

The next stop for Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team is at Daytona International Speedway, where Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 kicks off the unofficial start of the second half of the Cup season and gives Blaney and the team a chance to build on their runner-up finish in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Blaney Qualifies Seventh At Sonoma

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, SonomaFor the 11th time in 16 races this season, Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have qualified seventh or better.

The latest came on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway where Blaney qualified seventh in just his third Cup start on a road course. Last year he qualified 26th at Sonoma and 19th at Watkins Glen, the other road course on the Cup circuit.

“That is a lot better than where we were last year,” Blaney said. “We were kind of lost last year.”
The sophomore driver said the biggest change since last year is the experience he gained in his rookie season, both in qualifying and the races.

“You need a lot of finesse, and last year everything was just so fast and I couldn’t slow anything down,” he said. “I think when you get to race at a tough place like this and can sit back after and realize what you need to do different it makes a difference.

775f10e3f47305918d084f89e979eda6-1 “We still have a ways to go to run for poles and wins here, but it is nice to start where we can at least see the front. Last year we couldn’t even see the front.”

Blaney showed consistent improvement through the practices and qualifying at Sonoma. He was 19th fastest in the opening practice with a best lap at 92.805 miles per hour. He moved up to 17th place in the final practice and increased his speed to 93.422 mph.

Then in qualifying, he finished 10th in the first round with a lap at 94.704 mph on his second attempt. In the final round he improved to seventh place with a lap at 94.716 mph, his best lap of the weekend so far.

“It is a nice start for sure, and we have a whole race to move up,” Blaney said. “Hopefully we can stay up front the whole race and get this Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion a good finish here.”

Sunday’s 110-lap, 350-kilometer race is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on FS1.

Road-Course Racing A Big Part Of Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team History

13502006_10154012432643145_8041375519103290865_nWhen Eddie and Len Wood head west this weekend for the races at Sonoma Raceway, they’ll travel by jet airplane.

But on that flight their minds likely will wander back to the days when they drove the team hauler to road course races at another California track, Riverside International Raceway.

Back in the day, Eddie and Len Wood, now the co-owners of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney, made that long trek in the company of some older members of the team, like their father Glen Wood, uncle Leonard Wood or a crewmember like Kenny Martin.

“We always had someone older with us,” Eddie Wood said. “It sounds like a lot of work to drive that far, but it really wasn’t. Those trips were some of our favorite times in the sport. It was like a game figuring out how long it would take us to get to the next town.”

The Wood Brothers enjoyed great success at Riverside, winning eight times – four with David Pearson, three with Dan Gurney and another in 1967 with Parnelli Jones in a No. 115 Ford that was initially entered by Bill Stroppe but prepared and serviced by the Wood Brothers.

They also have had some strong runs at Sonoma, including a runner-up finish in 2005 with Ricky Rudd driving.

For that race, the Motorcraft team and then-crew chief Michael “Fatback” McSwain used the same chassis that Rudd had driven to victory at Sonoma three years earlier while driving for Robert Yates.

Len Wood recalled that the car had been cut down to the frame and stored at Yates’ shop. But McSwain and Rudd liked it, so the Woods purchased the chassis, and the team built it into a road-racing car.

“The seat was moved to the right, and a lot of other changes were made to adapt it to road courses,” Len Wood said.

Rudd qualified 20th, but the car proved to be much better than that in the race.

As the laps wound down, McSwain, considered by many to be one of the best strategists during his time in the business, made a decision to call Rudd to pit road for fresh tires and fuel as soon as he was in a window to make it to the end of the race.

As other drivers stopped, Rudd cycled into the lead.

He held the top spot for 18 laps before Tony Stewart, riding on fresher rubber, passed him for the win with 11 laps to go.

McSwain said the decision to pit was easy for him.

“It was a gamble, but I wasn’t scared to take it,” he said. “Some crew chiefs worry that they might lose their jobs by taking gambles. But I was more worried about winning than I was about my job.”

McSwain also pointed out that even though the runner-up finish was due in large part to strategy, there was more to it than that.

“It wasn’t like we had a 40th-place car and lucked into a good finish,” he said. “The car was good all day.”

Eddie Wood said that McSwain had a knack for making good strategy calls and for being able to communicate well with his drivers.

Now the Wood Brothers are racing at Sonoma with a young Blaney at the wheel of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion and with Jeremy Bullins on the pit box as crew chief.

Although Blaney has run just two times on road courses, once each at Sonoma and Watkins Glen last year, he has a road-course win in the Camping World Truck Series at Bowmanville, Ont., and two top-three finishes in Xfinity Series races on road courses at Mid-Ohio and Road America.

“It’ll be Ryan’s second Cup race at Sonoma, and he has some other road-course races under his belt,” Wood said. “I feel pretty good about the weekend.”

Qualifying for Sunday’s 110-lap race is set for Saturday at 11:45 p.m. (2:45 Eastern Time) and the race is scheduled to start just after noon (3 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FS1.

Late-Race Incident Drops Blaney To 25th At Michigan

2a81843e5fb6bbaac78d9a7a843e30f8-1After running just outside the top 10 for much of Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Ryan Blaney and the crew of his No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion put themselves in position to contend for a win at the end.

But despite running as high as second place in the final 50 laps and as high as third with 15 laps to run, Blaney was swept up in a late-race caution and fell to 25th place at the finish.

Blaney’s undoing was a restart with 10 laps remaining. He lined up fifth on the inside line, a lane that had proven to be a disadvantage throughout the race. On the start, he faded back and made slight contact with the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick. That resulted in a flat tire that sent him to pit road and to the back of the lead draft with just five laps to go.

With sheet-metal damage and panels underneath destroyed from the shredding tire, Blaney elected to nurse his wounded Omnicraft Ford to the finish line in 25th place rather than risk causing an accident in the final laps.

The finish dropped Blaney one spot to 13th in the championship standings.

Blaney told reporters afterward that while he didn’t feel like he had a realistic chance of repeating his Pocono win, he did have a chance to finish second after he and crew chief Jeremy Bullins developed a pit strategy to move up in the field. First, they elected to take two tires on a caution period with 50 laps to go, which moved them from 14th to fourth. Then they stayed on the track when another yellow flew with 15 to go, which put them third for the restart but on older tires.

I think on short runs we could run second,” Blaney said. “We held second for a while then four tires ate us up.”

And there was the issue of having to restart two times on the inferior bottom lane.

3f18fe69f84e3087efd70b30a1755a75-1“That didn’t bode well for us,” he said. “I went into [Turn] One and got super loose. I hate that it took a couple cars out off [Turn] Two. I got really free for some reason. It caught me off guard which made it look bad. We had a decent enough car to run up there once we got track position.”

Blaney went on to say that passing was difficult on the high-speed, two-mile track.

“The fastest cars couldn’t get to the front if they weren’t already there,” he said. “I thought we did a good job of making adjustments to get us a little better. We got into spots, but it just didn’t work out.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was pleased with his team’s efforts to promote a new Ford Motor Company product, Omnicraft.

“We got a lot of good vibes throughout the weekend,” he said. “We were able to explain that Omnicraft offers quality parts for vehicles other than Fords and Lincolns.

“And we could let people know that even if they aren’t fortunate enough to own a Ford or Lincoln they can take their vehicles to Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers, which are known for excellent service, and know they’re getting quality parts.”

Blaney and the Wood Brothers now move on to Sonoma Raceway, where the No. 21 Fusion will be back in its familiar red and white Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors.

Blaney, Omnicraft Ford To Start Sixth At Michigan

00ed5eb60959a19b056c9c704237b167-1It took a second attempt in Round Two of qualifying at Michigan International Speedway, but Ryan Blaney was able to advance to the final round and put the No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion in sixth place for the start of Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400.

Blaney, fresh off a victory at Pocono Raceway, was ninth fastest in the opening practice at Michigan with a best lap of 199.545 miles per hour.

He was ninth fastest in the opening round of qualifying, which allowed him to advance to the second of three qualifying rounds.

His first attempt in Round Two was not fast enough to be among the 12 drivers who advanced to the third round, so he made a second attempt and wound up eighth fastest at that point.

The extra lap on his tires hurt his speed in the final round, but his final lap at 200.854 mph led to a net gain of nine positions, from 15th place where he likely would have started if he hadn’t made a second attempt in Round Two.

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Michigan“We made better adjustments for the second run,” Blaney said. “We didn’t adjust enough for the first run of the second round. We got really tight, and tight around here is just scrubbing speed off and we couldn’t run as fast.

“We made a big swing to try to free it up, and I thought we did a good job of getting it closer from the first to the second run in Round Two. We still lacked a little bit of speed overall. It wasn’t a bad last run with an extra lap on the tires.”

Still, it was the 10th time in 15 races this season that Blaney and the No. 21 Ford Fusion have been among the top seven in Cup qualifying.

Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on FS1.

Blaney Sporting Omnicraft Colors At Michigan

21_OMNIWith their 99th victory secured by a dramatic finish of last Sunday’s Pocono 400, the Wood Brothers will kick off their quest for No. 100 in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at one of their favorite tracks, Michigan International Speedway.

It’s a place that has seen the Woods win 11 times in the past, including the inaugural Motor State 500 back on June 15, 1969. And it’s the home track for their long-time supporter Ford Motor Company.

This weekend, the familiar Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors will give way to the orange logos of Omnicraft, 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.

“It’s an honor to have the No. 21 Ford Fusion be a part of spreading the word about the Omnicraft brand,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “It will be a plus for the company, especially the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers.”

Michigan International Speedway Odds are, Sunday’s race will come down to a finish similar to the first Cup race at Michigan, which ended in dramatic fashion, something that’s common now but was relatively rare back in the day.

In the inaugural race at Michigan, Cale Yarborough, driving the No. 21 Mercury, prevailed over LeeRoy Yarbrough, driving a Mercury for Junior Johnson, in a fender-banging run to the finish. LeeRoy came out on the losing end. His damaged car didn’t make it back to the start-finish line, and he was credited with fourth place.

David Pearson and Richard Petty capitalized on LeeRoy’s misfortune to finish second and third respectively. All of the top four were driving either Fords or Mercurys.

“Finishes like that, with two drivers beating on each other, weren’t as common back then as they are today,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said.

In Greg Fielden’s Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, the author quoted legendary NASCAR journalist Benny Phillips, who wrote of that race: “If they gave an Oscar for stock car racing’s most thrilling event, then the Motor State 500 would take the lead by leaps and bounds.”

Cale at Michigan For Wood, the upcoming weekend, even if the finish of Sunday’s race isn’t as dramatic as in 1969 it is a chance for his team to build on the confidence and momentum that comes from the victory at Pocono.

“When we were getting ready to leave, our Dad told us that we broke axles two weeks in a row before we won at Pocono, so we need to go out and win two races in a row,” Wood said. “We don’t want to sound like we’re overconfident after just one win, but the way Ryan drove at the end of that race, passing Kyle Busch and holding off Kevin Harvick, does make us realize that if we can get to the end of the race in pretty good shape and have the right opportunity, we could win again.

“And it would mean a lot to be able to win one for Ford Motor Company at their home track.”

Qualifying for the FireKeepers Casino 400 is set for Friday at 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time, and Sunday’s race is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. with TV coverage on FS1.

Blaney Scores Popular First Cup Victory At Pocono

58a3e1b5d791fedaf52bad64f0e2b87b-1Ryan Blaney’s victory in Sunday’s 400-miler at Pocono Raceway will likely go down in NASCAR history as one for the ages, and for all ages.

It was the first Cup victory for the 23-year-old driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion and the 99th for his Wood Brothers team.

The combination of Blaney, one of the sport’s future superstars, and the Wood Brothers, the sport’s oldest continuously competing team, produced a victory that was popular with the sport’s older fans and with its younger, newer ones.

The reaction from the NASCAR world was swift and loud. The crowd at Pocono cheered wildly when Blaney surged past an aggressively blocking Kyle Busch to take the lead with 10 laps remaining then cheered even more as he held off the veteran Kevin Harvick over the final eight laps to secure the Woods’ first victory since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in 2011 aboard the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion.

f9a8709ff831dd7cc2a2ed1b80760700-1Immediately after the race, congratulations to the Woods and to Blaney began appearing on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. They came from competitors and drivers from other manufacturers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. Similar congratulatory messages were posted from fellow Ford drivers like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

IN the winners’ post-race interview session, team co-owner Eddie Wood pointed out that the victory, and the strong performance of the No. 21 team all season, wouldn’t be possible without the support of Motorcraft and Quick Lane and the alliance with Team Penske.

“Given our alliance with Team Penske that is second to none, that just really makes a big difference,” Wood said. “Jeremy [Bullins] came over to be a crew chief, and it just all worked out.

“Blaney is on his way now. He outran two guys today that are champions. They’re at the top of their game, and to outrun them to win a race here, at one of the toughest tracks that we go to, I’m really, really proud of him.

“He’s here. He’s arrived now.”

Besides the positive impact on the future of the sport that likely will come from Blaney’s victory, there also were elements of Sunday’s victory that reminded Wood Brothers fans of the glory days of yesteryear.

Among the reminders were radio issues for much of the race that caused the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team to resort to old-school communication methods like hand signals between driver and crew. Blaney could hear the crew, but the crew couldn’t hear him.

77f27aa0b9b0e5e356a1f4e3f81a88ef-1 “It was just like us going back to the old days with no radios,” Wood said. “We used to have a piece of gray tape on the dash that would have roof loose, door push, and that’s what you went by. It just kind of took me back, and then right there at the end, the way [Blaney] was trying to get away from Harvick and dropping down to the inside like that, Neil Bonnett did that in 1980 here, and went on to win the race.

“It was just like I had flashbacks. It was really cool.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, now in good position to claim a spot in the 10-race, season-ending playoffs, return to Michigan International Speedway, home track of Ford Motor Company.

For the FireKeepers Casino 400, the iconic No. 21 will carry the colors of Omnicraft, Ford’s newest, all-makes, all-models parts brand.

Blaney Qualifies Fourth At Pocono

84ad586daaa22e38cc16161b49662f59-1Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team led the way for Ford Motor Company in Cup qualifying at Pocono Raceway, earning the fourth starting position for Sunday’s Pocono 400.

It was the sixth time in 14 races this season that Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have qualified in the top five.

The No. 21 Fusion once again was fast off the truck as Blaney posted the seventh-fastest speed in the opening practice session with a best lap of 175.613 miles per hour.

Then in qualifying, he was 10th fastest in the first round with a speed of 176. 391 mph and third fastest in Round Two with a lap at 178.295 mph.

Then in the third and final round he ran a lap at 177.897 mph to earn the fourth starting position and post the best time of the five Ford drivers who made the final round.

Blaney told reporters afterward that he probably lost a little speed in the Tunnel Turn on his final run but not much.

“I don’t know that we could have run a pole speed, but I thought we made good changes each round and we got better and better,” he said. “I know the last round was a little bit slower, but that was me just missing the tunnel a little bit.

“That’s such a hard turn to do, especially in [qualifying trim] because you’re going so fast, but, overall, good speed by our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford.”

Blaney said he’s pleased with the weekend so far and is optimistic about his chances in Sunday’s 400-mile race.

“I think in race trim we were fairly decent,” he said. “We can see the front from there, and we’ve only got a few spots to go, so we’ll see how Sunday goes.”

The Pocono 400 is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FS1.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Ready For Unpredictable Pocono

13331021_10153960077903145_6707171810870742653_nPocono Raceway, site of this weekend’s Pocono 400, is one of the more unique tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney, likes the challenges it presents.

“Races at Pocono are always unpredictable,” Wood said. “Some people don’t like that, but I do.”

Some of those challenges are related to the 2.5-mile track itself, which has three distinct turns and is known as the Tricky Triangle.

Turn One, with 14 degrees of banking, was copied from the old Trenton Speedway in New Jersey. Turn Two, better known as the Tunnel Turn, is banked nine degrees and patterned after Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while Turn Three, at six degrees, is made like the Milwaukee Mile.

The difference in banking, and relatively low banking overall, combined with the shortness of the turns compared to the straightaways, lead to speeds that are slower than many oval tracks of the same length or shorter.

The relatively slower lap times relative to the length of the track open the door for various fuel and pit strategies.

“The strategy options are similar to what you see on a road course,” Wood said.

Then there’s weather, another factor that plays into strategy calls for many a Pocono race.

“The track is on top of a mountain,” Wood said. “Storms can pop up at any times, and that changes the way you look at the races.”

Another challenge unique to Pocono is the fact that drivers regularly shift gears, improving lap times but increasing the chances of parts failures.

Last year, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team dealt with the challenges of Pocono and came away with finishes of 10th in the first race and 11th in the second.

In the first race, the team took a late-race gamble by stopping for fuel with 39 laps remaining, a move that could have put them in position to contend for the win as many of their competitors were running short of making it to the finish.

A caution period took away any advantage they’d gained, but the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team still came away with a top-10 finish.

In the second Pocono go, the race was stopped by fog 22 laps shy of the advertised distance.

Blaney raced as high as fifth place, but found himself in 11th place when fog ended the race 22 laps shy of the scheduled distance.

Before the fog rolled in, the team took a gamble that rain was imminent, but the clouds held off for a while, and Blaney had to work hard to get back to 11th.

“We had two good runs there last year, especially for a driver and crew chief racing at Pocono for the first time in the Cup series,” Wood said. “I’m optimistic as we head back up there.”

Qualifying for the Pocono 400 is set for Friday at 4:15 p.m., and the race is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FS1.

Drive-Train Issues Drop Blaney To 32nd At Dover

fb63f750f8c5884c795e2f8bc1bd9dcf-1A second drive-train failure in as many weeks relegated Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team to a 32nd-place finish in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.

As he has in most races this season, Blaney got off to a fast start at Dover and finished both of the first two 120-lap stages among the top 10. He was seventh in the first stage, earning four points, and eighth in the second, earning another three.

But on a restart at the beginning of the third and final stage of the race, the No. 21 Fusion slowed, and Blaney drove to the garage where the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team attempted to fix the problem of the car not pulling properly.

But the initial diagnosis didn’t reveal the extent of the problems, and Blaney returned to the garage for further repairs.

He returned to the race, 31 laps behind the leaders, and soldiered to a 32nd-place finish.

His disappointing run at Dover followed a similar situation at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where his car also lost power to the wheels during a pit stop while running among the leaders.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said the emphasis now is on preventing future problems.

27ec1e7c1924d40ea82f20cfa71d096b-1“We will be working hard to figure out exactly what’s going on,” he said, adding that it does not appear to him that Blaney is doing anything wrong. “Usually when you have an issue like that it’s because the driver releases the clutch and starts the tires spinning before the jack is dropped. We don’t think that’s the case.”

Wood said he believed the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was on pace to score another top-10 – or possibly a top-five – finish.

“It looked good for a while there,” Wood said.

“We’ll just have to put it behind us and get going for Pocono next week.”

Blaney dropped one spot in the championship standings, to 13th place, headed into next Sunday’s 400 miler at Pocono Raceway.