Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team got off to a fast start on Sunday at the Pocono Raceway. Blaney qualified fifth for the 400-mile run, then finished the first 50-lap Stage in fifth place, earning six bonus points.
But 10 laps into Stage Two, Blaney was involved in a fender-bender just after a restart. The damage to the right front of the No. 21 Fusion wasn’t race-ending, but it did require two trips to pit road for repairs.
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team lost two laps in the process and were unable to overcome the setback. He finished 30th, still two laps behind. Nonetheless, he remains 12th in the championship points standings.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said the varying pit strategies employed by lead-lap teams at Pocono effectively took away any chance of his team taking the wave-around and regaining a lost lap.
“It almost worked at the end of Stage Two, but some of the leaders pitted before the end of the stage and then didn’t pit when the caution flag flew, so we were trapped two laps down,” he said.
Wood pointed out that even after the repairs, the No. 21 Fusion was running good lap times.
“The car was fast even after the damage,” he said. “We just didn’t have the opportunity to get caught up.”
Sunday’s race was the first of three this season that will see qualifying and the race on the same day, the other two being at Watkins Glen and Martinsville Speedway. Wood said he was encouraged by the fan reaction to the new format.
“There was a good crowd here, especially in the infield and on pit road before the race,” he said. “It just didn’t work out for us like we had hoped it would, especially after winning here last month.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team now head to Watkins Glen where the team will get the fifth pick of pit stalls based on their qualifying results from Pocono.
“That’s a little bonus that we wouldn’t have gotten without the new format,” Wood said.