DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When Ryan Blaney climbed out of his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Care Centers Ford Sunday following the thrilling conclusion to Sunday’s 59th annual Daytona 500, you’d have thought he’d been crashed out of the race because of the dejection on his face.
After all, he’d just come home second in The Great American Race for the legendary Wood Brothers and notched his career-best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finish.
But it was exactly that — coming so close to delivering the Woods their sixth-career Daytona 500 victory and not quite being able to seal the deal — that had Blaney disappointed despite a massive run for the sophomore driver on Sunday evening.
It was a solid day for us; we had such a fast car,” said Blaney, who sustained enough damage after a crash in his Can-Am Duel on Thursday night that the team had to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race.
“For it to be a backup car and this team to work so hard on it … it really means a lot for Ford and for Quick Lane and for Motorcraft. I won’t lie, it stinks to be so close. (To finish second), it’s not what we wanted, but it’s a pretty good run and a good start to the season nonetheless. It’s good momentum for our team, to be good at the beginning of the day, get some damage and be able to rally for a good finish.”
Blaney started from the rear of the field but had completed a last-to-first rally by lap 50, taking the lead from Kyle Busch for two laps prior to the end of the first stage on Sunday and staying in contention for most of the afternoon.
Though he picked up some damage in a five-car crash with 64 to go, which occurred when Jeffrey Earnhardt tagged Elliott Sadler down the track as Blaney was trying to get to pit road, he was able to rally back and found himself as part of an 11-car lead draft inside of 10 to go, with drafting help from Ford stablemate Joey Logano.
The pair tried to work together to get the bottom lane moving, but it wasn’t until the final lap that Blaney found enough momentum to get up to eventual 500 winner Kurt Busch’s back bumper.
“It took longer to get going than I thought! I tried to make a move with like 10 to go, and it didn’t go anywhere,” Blaney said. “I thought we were kind of stuck. Luckily we had Joey with us. I kind of helped him and them he kind of helped me. On the last lap we got a big run into (turn) one and they kind of all separated. We got a big pull off of that and then we got to second behind the 41 (Busch) … and somehow our run kept us going the whole way.”
Blaney then tried to back up to A.J. Allmendinger, who was behind him in third, hoping to get a run on Busch that never materialized.
“I laid back to the 47 (Allmendinger) and I was like, ‘We might get a good run!’ but then I was sputtering and running out of gas the whole back straightaway and I’m sure everyone else was too. Luckily made it back to the line.”
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