Crew chief Chad Bryant will remember the Ansell ActiveArmr 150 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois … but for all the wrong reasons.
Bryant made an irreconcilable decision to keep his driver Ryan Blaney out on the track, pushing the limits of their fuel, trying to get to the end. The situation was obvious to anyone watching the race: Blaney had the field covered with a huge lead. Most teams were only able to go 60 to 65 laps with a full tank of fuel but Bryant was trying to get Blaney to stretch the fuel of their Cunningham Motorsports #22 Dodge for 75 laps. The agony of defeat was for everyone to see.
Fuel mileage worked for some, not others
Alas, they came up a whopping seven laps short as Blaney had to coast in on lap 92. In fact, they had such a large lead that even with the Dodge crawling around the track out of fuel and a slow pit stop to get the car restarted, they still managed third place. Josh Williams, using a similar fuel strategy as Blaney, earned a career-best second.
Crew chief Bryant knows how to win in ARCA, even with limited experience, having guided Tom Hessert to a last lap victory at the half-mile high-banks of Salem Speedway in Indiana earlier this season. On Sunday, the team had a very fast car and after following eventual winner Corey LaJoie early on, Blaney looked like the class of the field in the latter stages of the event.
Blaney has three poles in five ARCA appearances and has never finished outside the top six. However, he also hasn’t won yet and Chicago was certainly as good a chance as any to grab his first victory in the national touring series. And like LaJoie, Blaney never won at a mile-and-a-half track with his only victory on the national stage being a win at Iowa, which is seven-eighths of a mile.
LaJoie fast too
It wasn’t that Blaney’s woes gave LaJoie a lucky win. LaJoie had worked hard all day and led 38 laps – Blaney was at the front for 41. LaJoie’s Roulo Brothers Racing Ford powered #17 started on the front row and was near or at the front all race long.
Ryan Blaney is 19 years old and the son of NASCAR veteran driver Dave Blaney, while 21 year old Corey LaJoie is the son of former NASCAR champion Randy LaJoie. Both of these sons of NASCAR are stars of the future. They will both be involved with the highs and lows of motorsports.
In the end, the world of contrasts had LaJoie with the happiest day of his young career while Blaney was probably the most heartbroken. Afterwards, a despondent Blaney stated the situation succinctly saying,
“It was just a miscalculation. Our thought was we could make it. I was trying to save fuel. We just missed it.”
Yes, they missed it by a lot and crew chief Chad Bryant won’t soon forget the agony of this defeat.