BROOKLYN, Mich – Ryan Blaney and the Omnicraft Ford struggled with handling early in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway but battled back using two-tire pit strategy to be in a position to contend for the win but a late-race brush with the wall sent last week’s race winner back to a 25th-place finish.
Blaney, who started sixth on the grid, finished Stage 2 of the race in seventh and collected four additional regular-season points but he was battling a loose race car and fell to 14th by the half-way point of the 200-lap event. He finished Stage 2 in 13th.
Blaney and company re-started Stage 3 in 19th but a quick two-tire stop during a lap-150 caution period put them in fourth with 46 laps remaining. Blaney drove the Omnicraft Ford to second place on the re-start and stayed there for 22 laps.
"It would have been tough (to win the race),” Blaney said. “I think on short runs we could run second. We held second for a while then (cars with) four tires ate us up.
“We couldn’t restart on the bottom,” said Blaney who was in third and in the bottom lane for a lap-184 re-start that was the beginning of the end. “That didn’t bode well for us. I went into (turn) one and got super loose. I hate that it took a couple cars out off (of 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.”
Coming off last week’s win at Pocono, the Omnicraft team can take solace in improving their car throughout the course of the race and being in position to contend with 15 laps to go.
“I thought we did a good job of making adjustments to get us a little better,” Blaney said. “We got into spots but it just didn’t work out. It was so hard to pass out there. The fastest cars couldn’t get to the front if they weren’t already there.”
Blaney remains in 13th place in the driver standings, 264 points behind leader and Michigan race winner Kyle Larson. Last week’s win at Pocono, however, assures Blaney of a place in this season’s playoffs for which he has eight playoff points in the bank.
NASCAR goes road course racing next weekend when the circuit goes to Sonoma Raceway in California for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The race can be seen at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 25on FS1.