Ryan Blaney drove his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford to a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, capturing his first top-10 of the season. It was especially gratifying after a last-lap crash at Atlanta the previous week relegated him to a discouraging 25th place result.
The 22-year-old was also the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and moved up seven spots to 14th in the series standings.
“It was good to get a good finish after last week’s disappointment,” he said.
Blaney began the Sprint Cup Series race in 14th but by lap 36, made his way into the top 10, running as high as fourth on lap 150. It was no easy task considering the high winds and rain that delayed the start of the Kobalt 400.
“If a gust hit you wrong it was ‘hang on tight’ between (turns) three and four,” he explained. “I actually almost caused a big one on a re-start because a huge gust of wind hit us. It was really unpredictable but the spotter does a great job of telling you what’s going on.”
Blaney described the incident in more detail in the media center following the race, saying, “I got blown into (turn) three pretty hard one time and almost took the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) out and that would have been terrible.”
Joey Logano, who finished second in the race, quipped, “You would have been hated as much as me, maybe more.”
Amid laughter, Blaney answered, “That was in my mind actually as I was sliding to him.”
The finish was not only a morale boost for the team but inspires confidence as they head to next week’s event at Phoenix. Blaney spoke about the impact moving forward.
“(It was) very significant,” he said. “Especially after Atlanta, last week, getting spun out on the last lap, kind of got us down a lot. To come here and have a solid run all day really ups the spirits. This team is working very well together. We kind of had a trial run last year running part-time. Now we brought in some new personnel this year. They’ve done a great job since Daytona.
“It’s a big, big accomplishment for the Wood Brothers team today,” Blaney continued, “and hopefully gives us some good momentum for Phoenix.
“We were good all day,” he emphasized after the race. “We were able to drive up through the field early and we made the car better throughout the day. It’s a great day. It’s a good way to get our season back on track after Atlanta. We had a good run and it always makes you feel good going into next week.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend as Blaney and the No. 21 team hope to capitalize on their success as the season progresses.