Ryan Blaney Determined To Win With Wood Brothers

As NASCAR Sprint Cup racing’s paradigm has shifted towards a blend of seasoned veterans and aggressive young drivers battling on the track, one racer who’s making a name for himself is Ryan Blaney.  The High Point, NC native has been one of the catalysts for the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team’s full-time comeback effort in 2016.

Blaney made the official transition to his full-time No. 21 Cup ride following a mixed schedule throughout the major three NASCAR divisions last year and full-time efforts in the Truck Series from 2013 through ’14.  Along the way, he’s displayed tremendous poise, balanced aggression, and most of all, a quick ability to adapt to the progressively fast paced nature of stock car racing at such a young age.

Competing in Cup racing is an honor for any racer but to be a part of the Wood Brothers Racing organization is like being a part of the Green Bay Packers in terms of their legacy with their respective sport.  Prior to the Cup qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, Blaney reflected on what it’s meant for him to race with this legendary NASCAR team.

“It means a lot,” Blaney said.  “It’s nice that we get a bunch of support from the Ford group and the Penske group for helping us out with everything.  It would not be possible without those two organizations.  To be able to do my first Cup season and bring the Wood Brothers full-time in a long time, it’s pretty neat and really special going back to the racetrack every week.”

Off the track, Blaney is laid back, jovial, and carefree, never shying away from showcasing his sense of humor on social media.  When the racing helmet is on, he’s intense, competitive, and most of all, confident with his team and the progress they’ve made thus far after 19 races.

While Blaney logged a solid fifth at Kansas in May along with six top-10’s after 19 races, he expressed some candor with the first half of the year in terms of his rookie efforts as well as his team’s first Cup effort in nearly a decade.

Blaney expressed optimism with his No. 21 team's chances of making the Chase.

Blaney expressed optimism with his No. 21 team’s chances of making the Chase.

“I think it’s been kind of up and down but you’ll have that in all forms of sports,” Blaney said following first Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  “Definitely more downs than we’d like to have.  I think our team is doing pretty well and we’re all in it together.  That’s something you gotta have.

For a team that is going back full-time racing for the first time in about eight years, that’s tough to get.  I think we’ve gotten better and better with that.  I think with the second part of the season, we’ll just keep growing and improving. It’s all about minimizing damages at some race tracks and we just gotta keep our head down and keep looking forward.  I like the progress that our team has made all year.”

Over the years, Blaney has grown from a late model talent who scored an exciting K&N West race victory at Phoenix in 2011 to one of the leading faces of the youth movement in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

Ranked 17th heading into the 400-miler this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Blaney is focused on the mission at hand in contending for wins and getting in position with making the Chase.

Despite the early race accident at Kentucky Speedway earlier in the month, Blaney’s kept his head up, undeterred by adversities and challenges that either strengthen or weaken the best in this sport.

“It’s going to be hard work to try to get back and claw our way back into position to make the Chase,” Blaney assessed.  “There’s some good cars in front of us and we’ve got a lot of points to make up.  I have confidence in our team to perform and execute.”

With Cup racing’s high stakes environment and the pressure to succeed increasing with the Chase approaching in September, Blaney, while cognizant of the situation, does not plan to change his approach in that driver’s seat.

“I’m not going to race any differently than I did last week or before that,” Blaney said.  “We had a good car and I wasn’t going to let anyone take advantage of me.  Things happen but you have to learn to overcome that.  I think our chances are fairly good but we just have to worry about ourselves and work hard.  Hopefully, that’ll work out.”

Given Blaney’s steady efforts behind the wheel, there isn’t a particular track on the Cup circuit that he’s quite circled on his calendar in terms of a surefire shot at scoring his first Cup win.

Blaney drops the hammer at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Blaney drops the hammer at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

“I want to go out every weekend (to win) and I don’t really look forward to any particular racetrack and think, “Hey, I think we can only win there,'” Blaney stated.  “I think we can do it any racetrack.  It’s all about executing and performing to the highest of our abilities.

We’re not out of it yet. Kentucky obviously hurt that but we’re not out of it by any means.  There’s still a lot of races to go and we just have to focus on our own deal.  I think that will figure itself out.”

Last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was more indicative of the promise this combination’s capable of putting together on a consistent basis.  Although a pit road speeding penalty set Blaney back in the 26th spot, a lap off the pace just past halfway in the New Hampshire 301, this effort refused to quit.

Battling back into the lead lap in the waning moments of the event, Blaney avoided the multiple late race accidents and rallied his way to an 11th place finish.

Next on the Cup circuit is the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track which Blaney and company overcame a 30th starting spot en route to a solid 12th place result.

Much like last year, the unmistakable red and white No. 21 ride will change its colors to blue and white for a good cause geared towards a veterans scholarship program by Quick Lane.

“It’s pretty neat to be part of that and it’s cool that Quick Lane has put that on,” Blaney said.  “We kind of have a pretty special deal that the Wood Brothers have and I was able to be a part of it last year.  The last couple of times that we’ve been to Indy, it’s been a lot fun to be part of something neat.  We had JDRF on our car last year.

Now with Quick Lane giving college tuition to veterans, it’s cool to be a part of that.  The neatest part to me is meeting the people that are a part of that program and try to support it.  It’s nice to be with a company like Quick Lane and Motorcraft who do stuff like that and it means that they really want to give back.  It’s a great way to show it at one of the coolest racetracks we go to.”

As Blaney prepares for the battle ahead at the Brickyard, he’s likely to prepare for yet another grueling weekend in the car with the intense heat and humidity.

One thing that he’ll likely not partake in is a little game of “Food Roulette.”

Recently, Blaney and Wallace partook in a unique game of consuming some strange meals like mayo, ketchup, relish, and yes, cat food.  Rest assured, Blaney is feeling better these days and not feeling any oddities from that food fiasco.

“Not anymore!” Blaney said as he laughed.  “I did but it was kind of a group deal.  Me, Bubba, and Carson, one of our good friends back home, who’s been a big part of these and the guy that nobody knows about and kind of the stars of these video, he’s pretty funny, all of us hang out a bunch.

Whenever you can think of a funny idea to do and make fans laugh, that’s one of the coolest things.  It was kind of a group discussion – I can’t remember who was the main person who thought of that but it was kind of us putting our heads together and figuring that out.”

Blaney has shown remarkable promise in his rookie season. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Blaney has shown remarkable promise in his rookie season. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Naturally, Blaney has excelled on the track and perhaps has a second career in comedy when he hangs up the helmet.

In terms of being a reporter, when asked if he had a question to pose for Wallace, he mused about an alternative career which has been on display on social media.

“I don’t come up with the questions, I just answer them,” Blaney said with a sly grin.  “That’s hard.  I don’t know.  I guess we should ask and see where his drumming career is coming along.”

One career that’s coming along quite nicely is that of Blaney in that No. 21 car and it’s likely both will thrive in the long run.

For now, it’s about thriving in that racecar and embracing life as genuinely as possible, two things Blaney excels with completely.


Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, you'll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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