WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion took the lead with three laps to go in the I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International then had to give it up to pit for fuel and finished in a solid eighth place.
Excellent pit strategy, pit work and deft driving put the team in position to win its second race of the season and score its second road course top 10 in as many tries and its eighth top 10 overall in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
“I stumbled down the back coming to two to go, so we wouldnt have made it,” said Blaney reflecting on the final few laps of the race. “It stinks. I wish I would have saved earlier like the 78 did. I pushed hard and thought we were better to go on gas than they were. They did a good job saving. I could have done better. If I would have started saving sooner, I think we would have made it. you never know.”
The Wood Brothers iconic No. 21 started 16th and Blaney drove his way up the field to 12th before pitting on green, sacrificing the Stage 1 finish for track position later in the race.
Blaney started Stage 2 in 26th place but quickly got into the top 10 when the cars that stayed out during Stage 1 went to pit road. He ran in third place during laps 31-33 and finished Stage 2 in fourth, collecting seven extra regular-season points.
The Wood Brothers iconic red and white Motorcraft/Quick Lane No. 21 started the final segment in fourth, moved up to second by lap 45 and pitted from second for what Blaney and company hoped would be the final time during a caution period that started on lap 51.
Blaney re-started fourth on lap 54, took third on lap 76 or 90, then took second place passing eventual winner Martin Truex, Jr., who was in full fuel-saving mode. He assumed the lead when fellow Ford pilot Brad Keselowski pitted for fuel with three laps to go. Blaney gave the lead to Truex shorthly thereafter when he, too, headed to pit road for fuel.
“I am pretty proud of the effort,” Blaney said. “We got up front at the beginning of the day and stayed there pretty much all day. I thought our strategy was right and we had a good race car. Things just didnt work out for us. That is just the way it goes sometimes.”
Blaney, in only his second year as a full-time driver in NASCARs premier series, has greatly improved his performance on road courses since his rookie season. He improved from 23rd to ninth at Sonoma and 19th to eighth at Watkins Glen.
“That is miles ahead of where we were last year,” Blaney said. “That is always what you want. You want to just keep improving and getting better. That is really all you can ask for. I am pretty proud of us getting better. Hopefully we will keep improving as years go on.”
Blaney is now ninth in the NASCAR Playoffs standings with his June Pocono win and eight playoff points. He is 12th in the regular season standings, 316 points behind leader Martin Truex, Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Ryan Blaney
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