When it comes to producing the very best driver and team combinations in NASCAR history, it’s all about chemistry and being able to communicate during the the toughest of pressure situations.
There’s one driver-team combination that could produce some impressive results.
Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford, has a new house with some familiar faces in place for 2018. He drove for Wood Brothers Racing for three seasons, winning at Pocono Raceway this past June to secure their 99th-career victory. All along, the team alliance between Glen Wood and Roger Penske has produced impressive finishes.
Blaney has also driven for Penske in Xfinity Series competition with limited starts for past five seasons.
“Those are two of the most historic teams and names in the sport,” Blaney said. “I have been lucky enough to drive for both of them now and (driving in Cup) will mean the world to me. There is really no pressure. You just want to go out and do the best you can, whether it is driving or the team doing the best they can as far as working hard and getting the cars to the track every week. If we can do that, that is enough. Our success on the race track is just a bonus.”
Now Blaney’s seat is inside a third Cup series Penske Ford alongside teammates Brad Keselowski and Joe Logano fielded out of Penske’s mammoth shops in Mooresville. He’s excited to be headed for Florida’s warmer weather at Daytona next week for NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 coming up scheduled for Feb. 18th. He knows his crew well, including Jeremy Bullins, his crew chief from 2017.
“We have a lot of the same people as we did last year,” Blaney said. “There are really only a handful of people that are new. The people that are coming on have known everybody on the team a long time, they have worked together at another point. It will be seamless, which is what you want. I am excited for the transition and it should be pretty simple.”
Blaney is proud to be driving for one of the greatest icons in all of motorsports. Penske has 104 Cup wins to his credit including two Daytona 500s as well as 16 Indianapolis 500 wins and 13 Indy Car championships in open-wheel competition.
He is amazed at the dedication and drive Penske continues to have, even at 80 years of age.
“We don’t get to see him every day. He travels the world and is working more than he ever has,” Blaney said. “It’s unreal the drive that he has…he is a very patient individual. You have to be with the stuff he does. Before most races, when he is there, he reminds us to be patient. You hear that a lot but coming from him is different. You make sure you do that. I think that is cool advice. Even though it is very simple you definitely take it to heart.”
During the short but productive off-season, Blaney has been preparing for what he hopes will be his best shot at collecting his first-career Cup series championship. He has experience, the talent and the team behind him to make it happen.
“Hopefully it is a breakout season, that’s what you want,” Blaney said. “Obviously you want to keep getting better year after year and keep improving on the previous season. I think with experience we got a lot better last year and I hope to have a huge year.”
Sometimes it’s about the numbers. Penske has fielded the No. 12 team periodically over the past decade with Ryan Newman and Jeremey Mayfield logging a combined 16 wins while using it. It’s a good omen for a young rising star that looks to have a bright future in the sport.
“I think just bringing back the 12 car to the Penske group is really special,” Blaney said. “The car hasn’t been around in a long time. I remember growing up watching Ryan Newman drive it and loving that car. Hopefully we can have the success he had in it and more. I have been lucky to drive for some great teams over the years with the Wood Brothers and now to drive a Cup car full time for Roger Penske is a dream of mine.”
“For some time now, we have wanted to bring Ryan in to run a third car for us, but things just needed to make sense from a timing and business perspective,” team owner Roger Penske said in a press release this past July. “We have been working on making this a reality, and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team.”
Blaney is ready to win again and it could very well come in the season-opening Daytona 500.