Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion won’t be in Sunday’s Coke Zero 400, but it’s not because of a lack of performance on the part of Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team. Instead it’s Mother Nature who has been unusually kind to the team in recent seasons. On Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, threatening skies led NASCAR officials to cancel qualifying and set the field according to the rules that give the allotted starting spots to teams that run full-time. Under the current format, the lineup is set based on the previous day’s first practice speeds, with the fastest car in qualifying starting first and so on. The field is predetermined before the lineup is set; however, based on the number of race attempts each team has made, with the cars making the most attempts eligible before the ones that have run less. It’s the first time the Wood Brothers have failed to qualify for a race for any reason since the team went to a part-time status seven years ago.
“I really hate this for Motorcraft/Quick Lane and all of our guests,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “We’ve been lucky. This is the first time this has happened since we started part time in 2009. We’ve dodged a lot of bullets, including last time in Michigan.”
“This one got us, but if it has to happen, I’d rather it be for something we can’t control instead of for a lack of performance on our part.”
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion had showed good speed in practice at Daytona, as Blaney posted the ninth-best time in Friday’s final practice.
But, as they have throughout their seven decades in NASCAR, the Woods are looking forward to their next opportunity rather than dwelling on the disappointment of Daytona.
“We’ll go ahead and get home a day early and get ready for Kentucky,” Wood said.
Among the few bright spots on an otherwise gloomy afternoon was the fact that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team has a proven superspeedway car ready to go for the next restrictor-plate race, at Talladega Superspeedway in October.
“I love racing at Daytona and Talladega,” Wood said. “And if there’s a positive side to this, it’s that we know we’ll have a fast car for Talladega.”
That prospect is even more exciting given the fact that Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team contended for the win and finished fourth at Talladega earlier this year.
The rookie Blaney hasn’t been around the sport nearly as long as the Woods, but he too showed maturity in his comments about missing the race.
“This is the bad part about running part time,” he said. “Our next race is Kentucky and I’m looking forward to that one.”
Blaney and the Wood Brothers will compete in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, July 11.