If Ryan Blaney wants a better understanding of the brand-new Ford Mustang mixed with the 2019 rules package, he’ll have to rely on his Team Penske cohort.
Blaney won’t get his first taste of the changes altogether until he climbs into the No. 12 Ford Mustang at Atlanta Motor Speedway, while defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano participated in the Goodyear tire test session at Auto Club Speedway on Jan. 9. Brad Keselowski will try his hand in an Organizational Open Test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 31-Feb. 1.
But Blaney really isn’t sweating it, he said just anxious to get back in the car as Team Penske drivers and teams gathered for an organizational pit crew competition and media event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday.
“Not really nervous,” Blaney said. “I would just like to test. You like to get behind the wheel of something. It stinks not being behind the wheel of a race car from Miami until, OK, we’re going to go out in a pack at Daytona. So, that stinks for me. I just like to go run.
“Just try to get in that mindset again,” he added. “Try to get your brain thinking fast like it should. As far as information on the cars and stuff, Brad and Joey I’ve always been able to talk to and you look at notes. It’ll be big this year of looking at the notes after Vegas and how’d they drive and talking to them about that.”
What sparks Blaney’s curiosity the most will be what Logano and Keselowski learn about the draft, the new drag ducts and how much grip teams will need to dial in their race cars with the reduced amount of horsepower.
“I’m interested in the drag ducts and how they’re going to be when we have them on and when they’re off,” Blaney said. “Joey touched on it a little bit of how much grip do you want to dial into your car. We go to Atlanta; I think there’s going to be a lot of that.
“Atlanta to Vegas to Fontana … even the short tracks. I’m curious to go to Phoenix and see how it is with that high power and high downforce stuff. We’ll just find out. It’s kind of hard to judge it right now just because you can’t until you get 40 of us out there.”
As far as the Mustang is concerned, Blaney feels Ford Performance and Team Penske have collaborated to make the necessary preparations to come out of the gates swinging.
“Honestly, it might not be a bad thing that Ford is kind of the last manufacturer to switch models because maybe you learn what to do and what not to do,” Blaney said. “But I think they put so much work into it and so much time and effort. …Those are two big changes for the Ford company, but I think we’ll do fine. I have so much confidence in the Ford Performance guys over there. They’re doing so much work and you just try to fire off good and if not, you work on it. That’s all you can do.”
Logano echoed Blaney’s comments and added by saying that between the Mustang and the new rules package, he feels it’s a good clean slate for Penske and Ford to build on as the season progresses.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing,” Logano said. “I think Ford has done a good job of learning from the other two manufacturers that have recently made changes. Like I said, learn from those and everything on paper shows that it should be better. We’ll see. I think there will be a learning curve with it because you kind of have to start all over.”
Keselowski, in search of his first Daytona 500 victory after winning two crown-jewel events in 2018 – the Southern 500 and Brickyard 400 – feels it won’t take the Penske squad long at all to put the Mustang out front.
“It’s a beautiful car,” Keselowski told NASCAR.com. “I suspect that it’s going to go on the race track and immediately haul some butt.”