Rookie Ryan Blaney knows what he’s got in the iconic Wood Brothers Racing, the team for which he’s driving fulltime this NASCAR season.
“It’s just cool to have such a historic team to be driving for and they’re such great people,” Blaney said. “They’ve been amazing to me and my family. We’re just racers. I think that’s what bonds up so well.”
The Wood brothers, who have been racing for 66 years, are back in NASCAR full-time for the first time since 2007. In Blaney, they have a young driver (23), who is also part of a racing family. Blaney’s father, Dave, is a long-time NASCAR driver. His uncle Dale drives in the World of Outlaws series.
“They grew up racing and it’s all they cared about, and that’s really all I knew growing up,” Ryan Blaney said of the Woods. “That’s all we care about right now.”
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I’m 22, man, I should be OK. I shouldn’t fall out of the seat or anything.
Blaney will drive the Woods’ No. 21 Ford, the same car in which drivers such as David Pearson, A.J. Foyt and Cale Yarborough have won races. Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 in the No. 21 Ford.
Blaney ran a limited schedule for the Woods in 2015, finishing fourth in the spring Talladega race and seventh at Kansas. His best season as a NASCAR driver was in 2014, when he finished second in the Truck series standings, with one victory and 17 top-10 finishes. He split time in 2015 between Cup, Xfinity and Truck races.
Blaney will part of a strong rookie class, which also includes Chase Elliott, Brian Scott, Chris Buescher and Jeffrey Earnhardt.
Wood Brothers Racing hasn’t run a full-time Cup team since 2007
“It’s a big jump to get back used to it, especially at the Cup level,” Blaney said. “Doing the Truck series full-time in ’13-14, you get a little taste for it, but you’re still missing like 14 races. They’re a lot longer races (in Cup) than I’m used to being full-time in the Truck races, where you were only going 200 miles. But I’m 22, man, I should be OK. I shouldn’t fall out of the seat or anything.”
Formed in 1950, the Wood brothers are the oldest active team in NASCAR. Two of the team’s founders – brothers Glen and Leonard Wood – are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Leonard is known as the inventor of the modern pit stop.
But they’ll get technical help from a much bigger team, Team Penske, one of their fellow Ford teams on the Cup circuit.
“You look back at last year, it was kind of a building year for us,” team president and co-owner Eddie Wood said. “We had speed everywhere. I hope we can run consistently in the Top 15 and get in the position to win a race or two. I’m looking forward to being back.”