By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Since Woods Brothers Racing did not compete full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the 2013, 2014 or 2015 seasons, the organization did not receive a charter under the new agreement between the sanctioning body and team owners.
That left Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney driving a No. 21 Ford in the “open” category, required to qualify on speed for the Daytona 500.
But Blaney brushed that issue aside forcefully on Sunday afternoon, charging into the top 12 in the first round of time trials and posting the seventh-fastest lap in the final round. With a position in the Great American Race assured, Blaney will start fourth in the first of two Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday.
“It is nice to be locked into the race,” Blaney said. “The biggest relief for us is to know you are locked in and are good to be able to race in the 500. That kind of lets us go race on Thursday a little bit more than we would have instead of playing it conservative if we weren’t locked in.
“It’s nice to have such a fast car and be locked into the race. It’s a load off our shoulders, for sure. I think anytime you can make it to the last round you feel good about the speed of your race car. I think our speed is pretty good. We definitely aren’t the fastest, but we have good speed, and I think we will dial it in and be good for the 500.”