DAYTONA - Ryan Blaney was in position to win Friday night’s Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway, but he couldn’t do it alone.
Blaney didn’t have anyone behind him to provide the push necessary during an overtime finish, so he had to settle for a fourth-place finish which was tops among Ford teams. Kaz Grala’s fortunes were the exact opposite as he gained 10 spots over the final two laps and took the checkered flag fifth.
Kyle Larson was deemed the winner even though he didn’t cross the finish line first. That’s because Justin Hailey darted to the inside and passed both Larson and Elliott Sadler just as they approached the finish line, but NASCAR penalized him because he had two tires below the yellow line while advancing his position. That resulted in Larson going to Victory Lane while Hailey was dropped to 18th.
Austin Cindric was having a solid night as he finished seventh in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2, but he got hit from behind on lap 82 and went careening up the track. He eventually made contact with another car, which sent him barrel-rolling multiple times before his No. 60 Roush Fenway Mustang came to rest on four wheels. Cindric walked away and said afterwards he had no bumps or bruises, but was disappointed to finish 33rd.
The night ended in similar fashion for Cole Custer and Ryan Reed, who were both collected in an accident with three laps remaining. They ended up 25th and 26th, respectively.
The Xfinity Series returns Friday, July 13 from Kentucky Speedway for the Alsco 300 (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
FORD FINISHING RESULTS
4th -- Ryan Blaney
5th -- Kaz Grala
25th -- Cole Custer
26th -- Ryan Reed
33rd -- Austin Cindric
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 60 Odyssey Battery Ford Mustang
“I’m fine. It’s just unfortunate. We have such a strong run like that and it comes to an end early. There are plenty of things I can complain about, but I have to be thankful that Roush and NASCAR and everybody else who puts safety first really comes to fruition in situations like that. It’s definitely the biggest wreck I’ve ever had. It’s unfortunate I keep having those at Daytona. I’ve got to quit going to this infield care center here. I know all the people and all the faces. They’re very nice, but it’s just a shame. We were giving Odyssey Batteries and the Ford guys and Roush guys a great run and it’s too bad to see us come up short.”
HOW DID YOU SEE THAT START? “My first time ever flipping a car, so that’s always an interesting experience. It’s unfortunate we have a strong day and come up short, but I’ve just got to be thankful for NASCAR and Bell helmets and Roush who builds these safe cars and does what they do to make me be able to walk out of something like that with no bruises or anything. I’m just thankful for that. I wish we would have been able to see that come to fruition. I’ve had some tough races here and today was gonna be a good day, but it’s unfortunate and we’ll move on to the next one. My next one with the 60 guys will be at New Hampshire, so I’m looking forward to that and giving them a run they really deserve.”
WHAT DID THE FLIP FEEL LIKE? IS THE WORST CRASH YOU’VE HAD? “Yeah, without a doubt. Any time you wreck at one of these tracks you’re usually wrecking in front of somebody and it’s collecting a lot of good cars. It’s a shame we had to do that with 20-some-odd laps to go, just trying to figure out which lane was gonna move forward. It’s unfortunate you have that kind of impatience, but that’s what you expect. Everyone is racing for spots on track and you can’t blame someone for being aggressive I guess in that scenario. I’ve got to be thankful for Odyssey Batteries and Ford Performance and everybody who makes this program possible.”
SO YOU’RE NOT MAD? “No, I’m not mad. Everyone is racing. It’s part of it.”
WHAT DID YOU FEEL IN THE WRECK? “I obviously got tagged in the left-rear and that’s what started the whole thing, but I was just focusing on trying to push Blaney forward because I knew pushing him forward was gonna mean me advancing myself. I felt like if we could get the bottom lane going again it would have been easy to set sail.”
ANY DANGER OF YOUR HEAD HITTING THE ROOF? YOU’RE A TALL GUY. “I’ve never rolled a stock car before. I’ve had plenty of rallycross wrecks. That’s par for the course in that stuff, but it was a first for me and I didn’t know what to expect and when I knew I was going over I just kind of accepted it. I pulled my legs and pulled my arms in and just kind of held tight and closed my eyes. You open your eyes and everything is happy days. It’s unfortunate I had to go through that experience, but you’ve just got to move on.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 22 Pirtek Ford Mustang
“It’s hard to go anywhere with a green-white-checker here, especially when we had no help. We had no one behind us and you can’t go anywhere. I’m actually surprised we even got back to the 1 and I might have been late on one more there at the end in three in four and that probably cost us, but I couldn’t get any help.”
RYAN REED, No. 16 Drive Down A1C Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang
“They were wrecking going through the tri-oval up top and I got hooked in the left-rear. I don’t know if I came down some on the 11 or not, it was just chaos. It’s just Daytona. You’re just scrapping and hoping for the best there. We’ve been on the right side of it a few times and tonight we weren’t. We knew we were fast. It was a typical deal and we got a shot, but we didn’t quite get to the end of that thing.”
YOU BOUNCED BACK FROM SOME ISSUES EARLIER. “We were plenty fast. We could get to the front. Once you get into the top 10 it’s hard to move around, but we could fly up to the top 10 every time, so that was never a worry of mine. It’s disappointing. We went through the grass and that ripped the nose off, so we were done after that. It’s just one of those deals.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang
“I felt like our Haas Automation Mustang was really strong and fast, but it didn’t handle the best. We got it better throughout the race and I felt there at the end we were pretty good and could compete for a win or a top five, but everybody got crazy there and I think we ran out of room. I think there was nothing we could really do about it, so we’ll move on to the next one.”
KAZ GRALA, No. 61 Kiklos Extra Virgin Olive Oil Ford Mustang
“It was pretty hectic on that last restart. We were right behind the 24, but with eight laps to go I actually got a flat right-rear tire coming to the green. I had to pit as the field took the green, but luckily we got a caution after that. We restarted 15th and made a couple decent moves to get up to fifth. I think that’s a really, really good recovery for our team considering the trouble we had late in that race. I’m just really proud of everyone at Fury Race Cars, Ford Performance and huge thanks to Kiklos and Marlowe’s Tavern for jumping on board and allowing us to do this race. I had a lot of fun today. I love plate racing and two races here this year and two top fives. I’ll take it. That’s really good for our team.”
WHAT WAS THE LAST RESTART LIKE? “It was pretty wild. You know on an overtime attempt in any plate race that no one is gonna lift and it’s gonna be hectic. I knew I wasn’t gonna lift, so I just stayed in line and basically went as far as I could get forward and we got up to fifth. I’m really proud of everyone at Fury Race Cars and Ford Performance. Huge thanks for Kiklos and Marlowe’s Tavern for jumping on board and allowing us to do this race.
HOW SATISFYING IS THIS FINISH? “it’s really satisfying. This is our first top five with Fury, but I feel like we’ve had speed all along so far since we’ve been the 61 team. To see that we can come out here on a superspeedway, where it’s aero dependent, motor dependent and run with the top guys and get a good finish is really exciting for us. I know it’s a big motivation booster for us. Right now, our future is unsure. We don’t have the Kentucky race sold yet, so I’m not sure if we’ll be out there next week, but good runs like this always help try to sell more races going forward. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue running at least some this year.”