Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Virginia Tech Ford Fusion got off to a fast start but had a disappointing finish in a rain-delayed Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Blaney was strong in practice on Friday and backed it up by qualifying fourth for the 500-lap race on the ultra-fast, high-banked concrete oval.
But the speeds at Bristol also lead to multi-car crashes, and one of those wiped out a strong performance by Blaney and his Virginia Tech team, and he wound up 35th at the finish.
The race started out with great promise for Blaney and his maroon No. 21 Ford Fusion.
Just after the drop of the green flag on Saturday night, Blaney drove to third place before rains halted the race after 38 laps and pushed the finish back to Sunday afternoon.
Back on the track, Blaney soon grabbed second place and held that until the first pit stop at Lap 85. An unfavorable pit stall, with lead-lap cars in front of him and behind him, contributed to him falling to 11th on the restart. But soon he was back among the top 10 and raced there for nearly 200 laps.
On a pit stop at with a little over 130 laps to go, the Virginia Tech crew tuned Blaney’s car back to the settings he started the race with, and he restarted 14th.
That’s where his good fortune came to an end. When Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch collided at the front of the pack, drivers began crashing in front of Blaney, and he wound up slamming into the car of Matt Kenseth, which was knocked in front of him just as Blaney got to him.
With substantial damage to the Virginia Tech Fusion, the crew patched the car back up and got him back on the track where he salvaged a 35th-place finish.
“We were trying to make ground on the top and before I knew it the 20 [Kenseth] was sitting sideways in front of me, and I hit him pretty hard,” Blaney said. “It’s unfortunate. We had a really good car early and lost some spots on pit road being in bad spots and kind of lost our car a little bit halfway through, but got it back and thought we were just starting to make ground up and got in that wreck.”
Blaney and his Wood Brothers team will run the Virginia Tech colors this fall at Martinsville Speedway, but next week at Michigan International Speedway the No. 21 Ford Fusion will be back in its red-and-while Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors.
“I want to thank Virginia Tech, Ford and Motorcraft/ Quick Lane for what they do,” Blaney said.
“That [finish] definitely hurts, especially when you have a good car, but we’ll just go on to next week.”
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that despite the disappointing finish, he was proud of his team’s effort.
“We definitely didn’t get the result we wanted for Virginia Tech and for Ford Motor Company, but all-in-all we had a fast car all weekend,” he said. “We’ll have Virginia Tech on the car at Martinsville, and although we’ll be racing at Richmond the night of the Battle of Bristol, we’ll be pulling hard for the Hokies.”