Sunday’s Ford 400 will bring to an end Blaney’s tenure as a driver for NASCAR’s famed Wood Brothers Racing team, which has included his first career series victory earlier this season and the 99th for the team.
Blaney, 23, is moving to Team Penske as a full-time driver next season. He and crew chief Jeremy Bullins will return to Penske while the No. 21 Ford will be driven by Paul Menard, with Greg Erwin serving as crew chief.
Even though he has been “on loan” from Penske, Blaney he has made a lasting mark on one of NASCAR’s iconic organizations.
“The initial expectations of everyone was Ryan was going to go back to Team Penske wherever they were ready,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “We’re fortunate enough to keep him a couple of extra years.
“Just like everyone else who has ever driven for us, Ryan will always be a part of our Wood Brothers family.”
Blaney ran a partial schedule with the Woods in 2015 and was part of the organization’s long-awaited return to a full-time operation in 2016. In 87 races in the No. 21, Blaney has eight top-five and 25 top-10 finishes.
This has been a break-out year with Blaney’s win at Pocono Raceway, poles and Kansas and last week at Phoenix, and qualifying for the NASCAR playoffs for the first time.
Although he was eliminated from title contention last week, Blaney still enters this weekend’s season finale eighth in the series standings and the opportunity to finish even higher.
“I’ve been really lucky to drive for two great teams and get to know some great families and great people along the way,” Blaney said.
“Growing up in the sport, I looked up to teams like the Wood Brothers and the Penske organization. To drive for them is definitely something that I would always want to do as a kid. It’s really nice to be able to be in a spot to do that.”
There’s still the chance to give the Wood Brothers their 100th Cup victory before he leaves.
Blaney finished third at Kansas and sixth at Texas in the team’s last two races on 1.5-mile tracks similar to Homestead.
“It’s a shame we’re not racing for the championship,” Blaney said, “but we can still try to win the race.”