ThatsRacin

Blaney hopes to prove his mettle at Michigan International

In five Sprint Cup starts so far, Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers’ iconic No. 21 Ford have been competitive in each, but engine failure has brought an early end to Blaney’s day in three of them.
In five Sprint Cup starts so far, Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers’ iconic No. 21 Ford have been competitive in each, but engine failure has brought an early end to Blaney’s day in three of them. Getty Images

It’s been a fast, yet frustrating season for Ryan Blaney.

Blaney, the 21-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, began the 2015 season with the opportunity to get his first extended experience in the Sprint Cup Series, where he hopes to make a permanent home.

Blaney, a development driver for Team Penske, joined the Wood Brothers organization in the offseason, pairing the sport’s most veteran team with one of its young rising stars.

The Wood Brothers planned to run 18 races this season, which included a new alliance with Team Penske that provides technical assistance and chassis.

Speed has not been an issue. Results, however, have.

In five starts so far, Blaney and the Woods’ iconic No. 21 Ford have been competitive, but engine failure has brought an early end to Blaney’s day in three of them.

In the other two, he finished 19th at Las Vegas and a career-best fourth at Talladega, Ala. He’ll start fifth in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“It is frustrating in the moment when it happens, very frustrating,” Blaney said of the engine failures this season. “Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the positives of the situation, but you always have to go back and look at it.

“We were running really well in all the races we had trouble in. That is what you have to focus on. You can’t dwell on the bad stuff too long.”

For a young driver like Blaney, who only has a limited number of opportunities in the Cup series this season, it’s likely far more easier said than done.

For Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood, it’s a much more manageable issue.

“It’s OK because right now with our relationship with Team Penske and with things going so well with Ryan and (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, you know you’re going to get another opportunity to run well,” he said.

“Drivers are different. Ryan’s young, and I’m old. I’m sure it hurts him at the time. I’ve been beat around a lot in this sport, you kind of get used it.”

Just making this weekend’s race at Michigan provided some added drama for Blaney and his team.

Rain threatened to washout qualifying on Friday and because the Wood Brothers had entered just four of the first 14 races this season, they would have missed the field if it was set by practice speeds and the rulebook.

Luckily after an early shower, the afternoon remained mostly overcast and dry, allowing Blaney to cash in on the speed he showed in practice.

“I am really excited to qualify well and really excited to get qualifying in. It wasn’t looking too good for a while,” Blaney said.

“It would have stung knowing how good of a car we had in practice if qualifying rained out. We are fortunate to get it in, and it is a bonus to have a good race car in it.”

Not only do Blaney and the Wood Brothers get a chance to race on Sunday with a fast car, but Blaney’s qualifying effort also extended an impressive streak.

The Wood Brothers have now qualified for their 86th consecutive Cup race at Michigan, which dates back more than 40 years. Michigan is an important track to the manufacturers in the sport whose headquarters are based in the nearby Detroit area.

Ford Motor Co. has been a longtime sponsor of the Wood Brothers – assistance which has helped maintain the viability of the organization.

The Wood Brothers won the very first Cup race at Michigan (with driver Cale Yarborough in 1969). They’d also like to win the next.

“I think our chances of winning Sunday are as good as any with the combination of race car and how good our pit road guys have been,” Blaney said. “All the products are there, it is just a matter of putting a whole race together.”

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Twitter: @jim_utter

Sunday’s Lineup

St.

No.

Driver

Car

Speed

1

5

Kasey Kahne

Chevy

201.992

2

4

Kevin Harvick

Chevy

201.613

3

2

Brad Keselowski

Ford

201.449

4

19

Carl Edwards

Toyota

201.067

5

21

Ryan Blaney

Ford

201.056

6

24

Jeff Gordon

Chevy

200.988

7

3

Austin Dillon

Chevy

200.915

8

48

Jimmie Johnson

Chevy

200.658

9

78

Martin Truex Jr.

Chevy

200.579

10

18

Kyle Busch

Toyota

200.468

11

22

Joey Logano

Ford

200.418

12

20

Matt Kenseth

Toyota

199.579

13

11

Denny Hamlin

Toyota

199.933

14

88

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Chevy

199.928

15

14

Tony Stewart

Chevy

199.662

16

42

Kyle Larson

Chevy

199.435

17

27

Paul Menard

Chevy

199.352

18

55

David Ragan

Toyota

198.983

19

10

Danica Patrick

Chevy

198.462

20

6

Trevor Bayne

Ford

198.380

21

16

Greg Biffle

Ford

198.216

22

33

Ty Dillon

Chevy

198.183

23

31

Ryan Newman

Chevy

198.129

24

41

Kurt Busch

Chevy

197.585

25

1

Jamie McMurray

Chevy

196.727

26

43

Aric Almirola

Ford

196.694

27

13

Casey Mears

Chevy

196.560

28

7

Alex Bowman

Chevy

196.415

29

40

Landon Cassill

Chevy

196.399

30

9

Sam Hornish Jr.

Ford

195.716

31

47

AJ Allmendinger

Chevy

195.588

32

15

Clint Bowyer

Toyota

195.578

33

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ford

195.578

34

38

David Gilliland

Ford

195.487

35

46

Michael Annett

Chevy

194.679

36

51

Justin Allgaier

Chevy

194.049

37

34

Brett Moffitt

Ford

own. pts.

38

26

Jeb Burton

Toyota

own. pts.

39

98

Josh Wise

Ford

own. pts.

40

35

Cole Whitt

Ford

own. pts.

41

23

J.J. Yeley

Toyota

own. pts.

42

32

Mike Bliss

Ford

own. pts.

43

83

Matt DiBenedetto

Toyota

own. pts.

Failed to Qualify

44

62

Brendan Gaughan

Chevy

187.349

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