Ryan Blaney and his crew chief Jeremy Bullins have never competed in a Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, site of this weekend’s Good Sam 500.
But they have raced on a similar track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which like Phoenix is a mile in length and relatively flat.
At New Hampshire last year, Blaney put his team’s No. 21 Ford Fusion on top of the scoreboard after the opening session of knock-out qualifying and wound up starting 16th.
The notes gathered that weekend in Loudon, N.H., have Bullins encouraged as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team prepares for a three-race stretch of racing at tracks that he and Blaney have never run as Cup competitors.
“Fortunately, we ran Loudon in 2015, and that track and Phoenix are somewhat similar,” Bullins said, adding that the new lower downforce package NASCAR has mandated for most tracks this year will add another challenge for the young team. “The low-downforce package will change some of our set-ups.
“The low-downforce package will change some of our set-up parameters as we expect the cars to be a little looser this year with the much smaller spoiler.”
To get the most benefit from the opening practice session at Phoenix, Bullins will vary from his usual practice strategy.
“Anywhere we have raced or tested we try to start practice in qualifying trim,” he said. “But at Phoenix and other tracks we are going for the first time we will run some laps in race trim before swapping to qualifying mode at the end of practice.”
“That should give us a good baseline for Saturday’s practice and give Ryan time to get a feel for the car and track as we head into qualifying.”
By that time, Blaney and Bullins should have a good idea how their Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will be performing under the new lower downforce package.
That will help Bullins as he prepares his game plan for Sunday’s 500-kilometer race.
“It will be interesting to see how much fall off in the tires we see in practice and how that affects the race strategy,” he said. “In the past, two-tire strategies have been effective at Phoenix, allowing you to gain track position and maintain it throughout the next stint.”
But if tires wear more than expected and speeds begin to slow after putting on just two fresh tires, that will call for a different strategy.
“If the tires wear more, causing the pace to slow more than in the past, two-tire strategies will go out the window,” Bullins said.
Qualifying for the Good Sam 500 is set for Friday at 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is set to get the green flag on Sunday just after 3 p.m. Eastern with TV coverage on FOX.
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Quick Lane® provides automotive quick services for all makes and models. Quick Lane’s nationwide network of more than 700 facilities, each providing the convenience of an aftermarket company (no appointment necessary, service while you wait, evening and weekend hours, competitive prices) with the confidence of a major automotive manufacturer (quality parts, factory-trained, technicians). In addition to offering trusted parts from Motorcraft, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers offers brand-name tires from Goodyear, Continental, Michelin and others. Quick Lane® is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. For more information, visit www.quicklane.com
Wood Brothers Racing
Wood Brothers Racing was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team and one of the winningest teams in NASCAR history. Since its founding, the team won 98 races (including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades) and 117 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series. Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. Glen’s brother, Leonard, is known for inventing the modern pit stop. The team currently runs the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney in the famous No. 21 racecar.