Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team scored their 14th top-10 finish of the season this afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing sixth with a last-lap pass of Joey Logano to claim the position.
Even though Blaney scored 11 stage points with an eighth-place finish in Stage 1 and a third-place finish in Stage 2, and even though he is still in sixth place in the NASCAR Playoffs standings, the Wood Brothers wheelman now is 22 points behind the cutoff for the run for the championship at Homestead.
Kevin Harvick’s Texas win, in addition to putting a Ford teammate into the Championship Four at Ford Championship Weekend, creates a must-win situation for Blaney and company at Phoenix.
“It’s a shame we’re not in victory lane but now we have to win at Phoenix and we’ll see if we can make that happen,” Blaney said following the race. “Hopefully we can rise to the occasion.”
Blaney was a threat to win the AAA Texas 500 most of the day, starting eighth on the grid and moving into sixth at the drop of the green flag. After starting the second segment where he finished, eighth, he assumed third place on lap 126 of the scheduled 334.
“We weren’t great at the beginning of the race but we got it better for the second stage and we ran third,” Blaney said. “I was really happy with our car then then we kind of got shuffled back. We were sitting fourth and I thought the car was okay and then I got really, really loose between (turns) three and four. Then I had to protect and probably over protected and lost like five spots and that really hurt us. It was hard to make those up. We just had that one run toward the end that wasn’t very good and that’s all it takes.”
Despite that slip, which dropped him from fourth to ninth during lap 257, Blaney recovered and was in eighth place when Kyle Larson hit the wall in lap 283 bringing out the red flag. He moved into seventh on the re-start and maintained that position until passing Logano on the white-flag lap to grab sixth.
The NASCAR Playoffs continue next Sunday, Nov. 12, with the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway when four more drivers will be excluded from championship contention.
“You pretty much have to go and win the race,” Blaney explained. “That’s all we can do. It’s gonna be hard to point your way in because everyone is running pretty good. We’ll just try to win Phoenix and do the best we can. Obviously, we need to be really aggressive.”
The green flag drops at 2:30 p.m. in Phoenix and will be televised on NBCSN. SKF will be the primary sponsor of the No. 21 Ford Fusion next week.