Blaney and Wood Brothers enjoy one of their "best races" of 2016

Ryan Blaney didn’t lead a lap at Michigan International Speedway but he, too, put himself in position to pick up his first Sprint Cup Series victory.

Blaney and Wood Brothers enjoy one of their "best races" of 2016
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford

Kyle Larson ended up earning his first series victory in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, denying rookie Chase Elliott the same opportunity in the process. Blaney, also a rookie this season, wasn’t far behind.

Despite having to pit early in the race for a flat right-front tire – which left a small hole in the hood of his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford – Blaney spent much of the race in the top-five and came home with a career-best tying fourth-place finish.

“It just unraveled,” Blaney said of his tire issue. “It didn't blow. At least it went down in a spot where it really didn’t hurt us. We lost a lot of time but I’m surprised we didn’t hurt our car more.

“We were lucky it was kind of in a fuel window and that it didn’t happen again.”

Instead, Blaney raced his way back up front and joined the growing list of drivers battling for their first series win and the spot in the championship Chase that goes along with it.

On a restart with 10 laps remaining, Blaney lined up fourth behind Elliott, Larson and Brad Keselowski. Keselowski ended up pushing Larson into the lead and he held on for the win.

“I was trying to push (Elliott) and (Kevin Harvick) was pushing me,” Blaney explained. “It was kind of a big bottleneck. I thought we were in a decent spot for that last re-start but it didn’t really work out great.”

Still, it was one of the most consistently strong weekends the No. 21 team has this season from start to finish.

“It was a solid day for us,” Blaney said. “It was one of the smoothest weekends we’ve had. We always want to win in Ford’s backyard but we did all we could do to run fourth.

“We were up toward the front most of the day. Some runs were better than others. It was kind of a decent day for us and there’s nothing to complain about.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood agreed.

“This was one of our best races since we’ve been together,” Wood said. “Ryan did a great job, especially realizing what the trouble was when he had that flat tire.

“Jeremy (Bullins, crew chief) made some great calls that I’m glad I didn’t have to make. That one at the end of the race to stay on the track was a tough one, but it was the right decision. And the pit crew was just amazing.”

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