PHOENIX, Ariz., March 19, 2017 – A late-race pit road speeding penalty pushed the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion back to a 23rd-place finish in the Camping World 500 today at Phoenix International Raceway.
Driver Ryan Blaney was racing in the top 10 all day – from his first career front-row start – until he got nabbed speeding exiting pit road during a lap-257 caution period. Re-starting in 26th, he made up three positions in the remaining laps.
The team’s first finish of 2017 outside the top 20 doesn’t overshadow plenty of positives from the Wood Brothers camp. First, Blaney was able to stay in the top 10 for most of the race even though the mechanism for his track bar adjuster stopped working midway through the contest.
“I thought our car was okay in the beginning and we were trying to get it better,” Blaney said. “About halfway through the race our track bar stopped working, which was bad. That really hurt us. That really hurt from being able to adjust our car throughout the run. That is what we needed. That really sucked when that stopped working. We take for granted those things.”
Crew chief Jeremy Bullins added, “That kept Ryan from helping our balance on longer runs, which added to our issues.”
“Then I sped on pit road and that put us in a bigger hole,” Blaney said. “We had an issue and then I compounded the issue by speeding and you can’t have that. I made a mistake on that deal. We will just have to go on to Fontana and see what we’ve got.”
Second was the work of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane pit crew. Efficient pit work gained as many as eight positions during the course of the race.
“The pit crew had a great day today with many fast stops that kept us competitive,” Bullins said.
“Certainly not the day we wanted with the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion,” the crew chief continued. “We won’t let this distract us. Our cars have been fast all year, this day didn’t play out the way we hoped.”
Despite the disappointing outcome, Blaney maintained his hold on sixth place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver standings thanks in no small part to his seventh-place finish in the first stage of the race (good for four extra points) and his eighth-place finish in Stage 2 (resulting in three extra points).
NASCAR’s West Coast Swing comes to a close next weekend, March 26, with the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.