An early encounter with the wall kept Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team from achieving the result they were hoping for in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But as Blaney and the team head into the off-season, the future looks much more encouraging.
Team co-owner Len Wood said the 2016 season has been a great learning experience for Blaney and his young crew, and that will pay dividends in the future.
"Ryan now has a full year under his belt," Wood said. "He’s run all the tracks, and next year will be a lot better for him."
The future also looks promising for Wood and his family-owned team, which just completed its first full season on the circuit since 2008.
"In our first year back we were able to get Ryan in the top 20 in the final points standings," Wood said. "That’s a significant accomplishment, and I feel certain we can improve on that next year."
At Homestead, Blaney qualified eighth for the premier event of Ford Championship Weekend, his 12th top-12 start of the season, but he struggled from the start of the race.
He bounced off the wall, bringing out the race’s first caution flag at Lap 28. The Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew made repairs, but the damage was more serious than it initially appeared, and he hit the wall again after blowing a tire on Lap 208. Still, he and the team soldiered on and wound up with a 26th-place finish.
"I made a lot of mistakes," Blaney said in his post-race comments. "I made a big mistake early and we ended up getting a flat tire out of it. I just hit the wall early being impatient. That just wasn’t smart, so that’s something I need to be better at and not being so impatient."
But as he and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team closed the book on his rookie season, he was able to find some positives despite the disappointment of the season finale. He ended the year with three top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
"We learned a lot this year," he said. "It was a fun year, and I’m just looking forward to years to come."
"This team does a great job. We’ll learn during the off-season and then come back."
Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team kick off the 2017 season at Daytona International Speedway next Feb. 23-25.