Ryan Blaney made his NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS)
debut under the lights Friday at Richmond International
Raceway, earning a seventh-place finish in the No. 36
SealWrap Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The
18-year-old driver qualified the No. 36 SealWrap Chevrolet
eighth for the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.
After a solid qualifying effort, Blaney lined up to take the
green flag from the eighth position. He raced in the top-10
until the first caution period called for debris on the
racetrack on lap 25. Crew Chief Brad Parrott elected to
stay out, and the SealWrap Chevrolet restarted eighth.
Blaney, posted lap times as fast as the leader and drove
into the top-five by lap 45. He passed Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
for the fourth spot just 10 laps later.
On lap 69, J.J. Yeley hit the wall in turn four and brought
out the caution. Parrott called his driver down pit road for
his first NASCAR pit stop. Blaney hit his marks, and the
team got to work on a four-tire pit stop with no changes.
An issue with the top of the fuel can held up the stop, and
the No. 36 SealWrap Chevrolet returned to the field in the 12th position.
The 43-car field restarted on lap 76. Blaney fell to the 14th position by lap 83 but worked back up to the 12th spot by lap 96. The High Point, N.C., resident radioed that the car was a little tighter on this run. On lap 116, the No. 81 spun and brought out the caution with the TBR Chevrolet in the 11th position. Blaney told the SealWrap crew that the Chevrolet was a little bit free later in the run.
Parrott called Blaney down pit road for another four-tire pit stop with an air pressure and wedge adjustment. The No. 36 SealWrap Chevrolet restarted in the 13th position on lap 125 and worked to the 11th spot by lap 150. Blaney radioed that the car felt tighter, but once he reached the 10th position on lap 154, he told the crew the car drove well in clean air.
By lap 183, he was the fastest car on the track and drove in the eighth position. The rookie continued posting the fastest speeds as he drove into seventh on lap 191. By lap 200, green-flag pit stops began with Blaney in the fifth spot. On lap 206, Parrott called his young driver down pit road for his first green-flag pit stop for four tires and fuel.
Blaney returned to the track in the 11th position, one lap down, as the field continued to make pit stops. By lap 217, the field completed green-flag pit stops, and the No. 36 SealWrap Chevrolet returned to the lead lap in the 10th position. Blaney radioed that the car was loose, and Spotter Tommy Baldwin advised to turn the brake fans off to get more heat in the tires. The change did the trick as Blaney began his final trek through the field.
As the laps ticked down, Blaney drove into the seventh position, where he would remain until the checkered flag dropped.
“I had a lot of fun out there,” said Blaney. “The finish exceeded my expectations. I appreciate how everyone drove around me. They showed me a lot of respect as a rookie. Our car was really good, and we were much better on long runs. We lost a little time on pit road but made it up on the track. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the seat at Darlington. This has been a dream come true thanks to SealWrap, Heavy Duty and Tommy Baldwin Racing.”
Blaney will return to the No. 36 SealWrap Chevrolet May 11 at Darlington Raceway. He will compete in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200, his second NNS race.