KANSAS CITY, Kan – Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team capped one of its best weekends in recent memory with a fourth-place finish tonight in the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway.
It was the team’s second top-five finish and its fifth top-10 result of the 2017 NASCAR season.
Blaney won his first career pole position on Friday, won Stage 2 of the 400-mile race and was in contention for the win until the last lap. The Wood Brothers’ iconic red-and-white No. 21 ran in the top five all night, leading 83 laps and running second for much of the rest of the race.
Loose handling, less-than-perfect re-starts and a strong Martin Truex, Jr., prevented Blaney from notching his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win to go with his first pole. Truex was too strong at the end for Blaney to beat on re-starts and lead cars had a definite advantage on this night in Kansas.
“The 78 got us on that restart somehow,” Blaney said. “I was super loose there on the last re-start and the 78 got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks.”
The duel between Blaney and Truex started around lap 220 of the 267-lap event. With Blaney in the lead late in the race, Truex began to close the gap, eventually taking the lead on lap 243. Excellent pit stops by the Motorcraft/Quick Lane pit crew helped Blaney re-take the lead on more than one occasion. But Truex kept coming back on re-starts. Truex took the lead for good on the last re-start with two laps to go.
“When we had the caution at the end and beat 78 off pit road, I thought we were in a pretty good spot and he made a really good move on that re-start and I wasn’t able to pass him,” Blaney explained. “Toward the end of the race he had good re-starts and I didn’t. I don’t know if I could have held him off had we got ahead. We were really free the last two runs for some reason.”
Still, the strong weekend was tonic for a team that had three rear-echelon finishes in as many weeks.
“It's really just nice to be back on track to be honest with you,” Blaney said. “The last three races have been really, really bad, and it's just an extra kind of slap to the face that we've had really fast cars in all those races we had troubles in, and we shouldn't have finished 35th. We should have had top 10s in all of them. So it was nice to show our muscle this weekend and prove that, like I said, this is where the 21 team deserves to be, so it's just nice to get back on track.”
Crew chief Jeremy Bullins agreed.
“We needed this after the last few weeks,” he said. “We needed a good weekend to work on our parking spot in the garage a little bit and get some points back. It’s a good day when you get a stage win and come home with a top five. If we do that every week, everything will take care of itself.
“The stat line is disappointing, to be fourth after running that well all night,” he continued. “We had a really good night. I think a lot of credit goes to the car. We qualified good and the pit stall was killer. Anytime you can get in pit stall one it helps a lot. For sure the pit crew did a great job tonight. We had a lot of fast stops and really kept us in the game.”
Following the strong Kansas finish, Blaney moves up two places to 11th in the driver standings, 184 points behind leader Kyle Larson.
The next stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit is Charlotte Motor Speedway for first the Monster Energy Open and All Star Race onSaturday, May 20, and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 28.