HIGH POINT, N.C. — Audio and story by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America photo — It’s been a pretty good three weeks to be Ryan Blaney and Team Penske.
With wins in two of his last three NASCAR national series starts (at Bristol in the Nationwide Series and Canada in the Truck Series) and coming off a fourth-place finish at Richmond in the Nationwide car, Blaney has built a wave of momentum that is carrying him to new heights in his development, including increased preparation for his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in February with the Wood Brothers.
That increased preparation includes a chance this weekend to perform double-duty at Chicagoland Speedway, driving his Brad Keselowski Racing truck and the Team Penske Nationwide car on back-to-back days.
Blaney says not only has he enjoyed the competition more the last few weeks, but he is excited about the additional track time he will get this weekend in Chicago.
“It has been a very fun few weeks here,” said Blaney. “The past month and a half has been a blast, announcing my deal for next year with the Wood Brothers, then being able to win at Bristol in the Nationwide car, and being able to win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in the truck — that especially was a treat for me, with us being able to get back under German. It was a lot of fun racing with him there at the end of that one.”
“It is always good when you can do double duty and I’m ready for the challenge,” Blaney added. “You get a lot more track time. Being able to run the truck race the night before, you learn that much more about the race track. You just keep learning and that is beneficial for any driver.”
As the season has gone on, Blaney has consistently gotten better, but says that he feels this is the kind of success the team has been able to have from the start of the year — things have just finally fallen into place.
“I don’t think this season has been any better or worse than I expected — I think we’re right where we need to be — but I have been very fortunate to be able to have great opportunities,” said Blaney. “Being able to have a great team like Brad Keselowski Racing and Team Penske has opened up a lot of doors. I have been very fortunate to have opportunities like that so that we can showcase what we can do.”
Blaney will get to showcase what he can do on NASCAR’s biggest stage next season when he debuts in the Sprint Cup Series for the Wood Brothers in the famed No. 21 Ford that has driven to five Daytona 500 championships and nearly 100 victories at the Cup level over its five-decade career. Blaney will make his debut with the team in the ‘Great American Race’ on February 22, 2015.
“The Wood Brothers have been great to us already — to me, and to Team Penske,” Blaney said of the time he has spent working with the team to date. “It has been great to get to know Leonard. The history with that team is so amazing and it has been great to get to know their stories. I’m excited for the time we have ahead of us and I’m looking forward to Daytona; it’s going to be a huge day for me for sure.”
But before Blaney can focus on what’s ahead of him in 2015, he still has a championship to chase in the Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing. Blaney sits third in the points standings, just 13 markers out of the lead with eight races remaining, and says it’s going to take a near-perfect run for his team to come out on top.
“Just no mistakes,” Blaney emphasized. “You cannot make any mistakes, especially when it gets down late in the season where you cannot make those back up. We don’t get a reset in the Trucks Series like Cup guys do,” said Blaney. “We don’t have a chase. We have to be consistent all over the year.”
“We’re a title-contending team; I think we’ve shown that all year long. You can see the improvements in our organization. Now it’s just time to bring it home down the stretch.”
Listen in to Ryan’s complete interview with Speed77 Radio from Monday night’s Motorsports Madness broadcast below: