PHOENIX, Ariz. - Starting 33rd after not making it through tech inspection prior to qualifying turned out to be non-issue for Ryan Blaney, piloting his No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang up to the top-5 in just 40 laps, a stage 2 win and eventually a runner-up finish in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix.
Bubba Wallace started seventh and finished sixth while Ryan Reed came home 11th to round out the top-15 Fords.
Cole Custer, who ran near the top-10 all afternoon for Stewart-Haas Racing ended up 21st after a late race incident with Austin Dillon. Custer lost control and made contact with Dillon, bringing a yellow flag and on-track retaliation from the Chevrolet driver.
Reed stands second in the driver points standings, four points behind leader Elliott Sadler (Chevrolet) while teammate Wallace is fifth and Cole Custer 10th.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS
2nd Ryan Blaney (Stage 2 Winner)
6th Darrell Wallace Jr.
11th Ryan Reed
21st Cole Custer
RYAN BLANEY (No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang) -- Finished 2nd
“It was just all about kind of being patient and aggressive at the same time, working your way up and making sure you don’t hurt your car any or anything like that. We had a great long run car, spectacular after about 30-35 laps. After that it just kept getting better. Unfortunately we didn’t have any long runs at the end. It played into his hands. What are you going to do about that? We are getting close. We just needed a little bit more.”
RYAN REED (No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang) -- Finished 11th
“It was an up and down day. A lot of down at points. Just struggled getting the balance on this thing. It seemed we could start as free as we wanted to but eventually would get way too tight. We just have to look at it and figure out what we can do better. I didn’t do a very good start on restarts most of the afternoon. I gotta get better there. Not a terrible day. I will take 11th on one of our worst days. That is what we have to look at. A bad day for us before was 16th or 17th and a bad day today was 11th. To me, that is progress. Even if it isn’t your best run.”
DARRELL WALLACE JR. (No. 6 Leidos Ford Mustang) -- Finished 6th
“It was such a good day. It was fun. It is fun coming back to the race track and having speed, being able to do something with it. Last year we were about a 10th-12th place car and that is where we rode. Today we were a sixth place car and that is where we rode but I will take that. It is better. Top-10’s are what we need to do. We are off to a really good start. We need to keep our emotions in check but our Leidos Mustang was pretty good today. We have a little work as a whole organization to get up there and contend for a win. We are knocking on the door. It isn’t going to happen overnight. We have a couple off-weekends coming up to find some speed and we will go have some fun in California.”
COLE CUSTER (No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang) -- Finished 21st
WALK US THROUGH THE INCIDENT WITH AUSTIN DILLON “It was 100% my fault. I got in there too deep, got really loose going in and couldn’t put any wheel into it. That was pretty much it. Just all my fault. Something that won’t happen again. We had a great race leading up to that. We didn’t start out at all how we wanted to but by the end we were probably a fifth to eighth place car. I thought that was a really good sign for us. I thought we had a really good Haas Automation Ford. It is unfortunate I cost us and the 2 car there.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH AUSTIN’S REACTION AND ARE YOU UPSET IT COST YOU POINTS? “It definitely sucks for us points wise but I guess you can kind of expect that when he gets taken out. I can understand how frustrated he is about it. It is what it is. I will try not to have that happen again.”
RYAN BLANEY RUNNER-UP PRESS CONFERENCE
RYAN BLANEY (No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang) “I think we just needed to get the short run speed a little closer. This team is getting a lot better and getting closer to where we need to be from a couple years ago. Not a bad day, we just needed a little bit more.”
HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR WAS THE HEAT INSIDE THE COCKPIT AND ON THE TRACK SLIDING AROUND? “This race didn’t move around too much. I moved up to the middle lane maybe in three and four which showed a little bit of promise but it is tough in these cars to really move around and find speed. Tomorrow hopefully we will be able to move around with it this hot and the tire combo, hopefully we can move around in three and four and hopefully one and two slightly as well.”
DO YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE NOW FOR TOMORROW STRATEGY WISE? “Maybe a little bit. Getting a few reps and a lot of laps around this place is good. The temperature will be similar tomorrow and we are running the same tire in both series’ so I think you get a good idea of where these cars are at and where the track goes to from lap one to 15. It definitely helps. When you see a lot of drivers run double duty it is because it helps for Sunday’s race. Whether it is pit strategy with two or four tires, we took two there to see what it did to our car. We will keep that in mind tomorrow if that situation comes up what we need to change or if we want to take two.”
CAN YOU HANDLE THE HOT CONDITIONS AGAIN TOMORROW? “Yeah, it wasn’t too bad today. You don’t really think about it when you are driving. You are too worried thinking about how to go fast. When we were sitting there under red you kind of think about it but I don’t think it will be a problem.”