Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team overcame an early race tire problem and finished a strong fourth in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday afternoon.
A solid qualifying effort on Friday put the Wood Brothers’ iconic No. 21 seventh on the starting grid, and Blaney quickly drove into the top five where he spent much of the sunny afternoon in Michigan’s Irish Hills.
Blaney reported a flat right-front tire going into turn one on lap 62. He quickly pitted, changed tires and continued on with a small hole in the hood as a result.
“It just unraveled,” Blaney said. “It didn’t blow. At least it went down in a spot where it really didn’t hurt us. We lost a lot of time but I’m surprised we didn’t hurt our car more. We were lucky it was kind of in a fuel window and that it didn’t happen again.”
A fast race car and smooth green-flag pit stops the rest of the day kept the rookie driver among the leaders, including during the last re-start with 10 laps to go in the 400-mile race.
“I was trying to push the 24 and the 4 was pushing me,” Blaney recounted. “It was kind of a big bottleneck. I thought we were in a decent spot for that last re-start, but it didn’t really work out great.”
The fourth-place finish was Blaney’s seventh top 10 of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. He’s now 17th in the driver points standings but 20th on the Chase grid.
“It was a solid day for us,” Blaney said. “It was one of the smoothest weekends we’ve had. We always want to win in Ford’s back yard, but we did all we could do to run fourth. We were up toward the front most of the day. Some runs were better than others. It was kind of a decent day for us and there’s nothing to complain about.”
The series’ next stop is Darlington Raceway for the traditional Labor Day weekend Southern 500 when the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford will take on its 1976 throwback livery honoring David Pearson and his triple crown-winning season 40 years ago.