Close, but no cigar….again.
After a stellar rookie season in 2016, Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers entered the 2017 season looking to improve on last season’s results as well as getting Blaney his first career win. In Sunday’s Daytona 500, the team nearly accomplished that feat, but fell just short as they had to settle for a runner-up finish instead.
Although it wasn’t a win, the second-place finish for Blaney marks the best career finish for the 23-year old, besting his three fourth place finishes last season.
Blaney had to start the race in a backup car from 36th after getting involved in an accident in his Can-Am Duel on Thursday, but the team did not let that keep them from making some noise in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season opener as Blaney took the lead on lap 49 for two laps up front.
Even though he suffered some damage in a lap 137 crash on the frontstretch, Blaney’s team was able to get the car repaired and keep him on the lead lap. As the laps wound down, Blaney maneuvered his way into the lead pack, but had trouble finding a drafting partner to help him get closer to the lead.
However, when the leaders started running out of fuel in the closing laps, Blaney was able to power his way through those with empty tanks and found himself in second place coming off Turn 2 on the final lap, just behind Kurt Busch.
Blaney attempted to back up to third place AJ Allmendinger to try and get a run on Busch in the final half-lap, but his fuel tank was also starting to run dry and he didn’t have enough strength to be able to close the gap and pass Busch for the win, settling for a second-place finish.
“Well, it took longer to get going than I thought,” said Blaney. “I tried to make a move with 10 to go and I didn’t go anywhere. I thought we were kind of stuck. Luckily we had the 22 with us. I kind of helped him and he kind of helped me. Late there we got a big run into (Turn) 1 and we kind of all separated and I got a big pull. I got to second behind the 41 somehow and that kept us going the whole way. I laid back to the 47 thinking I’d get a good run and I was sputtering and running out of gas on the backstretch. It was a solid race. It was such a fast Ford. For (it) to be a backup car, that really means a lot for Ford and Motorcraft. Not what we wanted but a pretty good run and start to the season.”