Young gun Ryan Blaney made the post-season for the first time in his career. It also gave Wood Brothers Racing their best finish in the point standings since 1994. This would be Blaney’s last season behind the wheel for the iconic owners. It also was only his second in the full-time series. Even so, Woods Brothers Racing is still the sport’s oldest operating team. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how Blaney posted his career-best season. He also did it by besting his numbers in just about every statistical category. More importantly, that entailed his first Monster Energy Cup Series victory.
“It’s been a fun three years and I’ll always remember it,” Ryan Blaney said. “They’re humble people and a humble family. All they want to do is race and that’s how I grew up. That’s what made our relationship special. I am thankful for the opportunity and only wish the best for them going forward.”
The up and comer who will transfer to Team Penske next year, started the season strong. He finished in the runner-up finish spot in the opening race at the Daytona 500. He also continued on to record three more top-10 finishes. After that, all his pro racing dreams came true when he recorded his first career win.
The triumph came in the 14th race of the season in Longpond, at Pocono Raceway in June. Amazingly, the win made Blaney the 18th different roadster to claim victory win for the Wood Brothers. Overall, the team has now collected 99 team wins.
“To win a race, that was pretty great,” Blaney said. “It’s been a fun year overall. It’s kind of bittersweet to see it come to an end. Still, I’m happy for what’s next. It’s a privilege to be part of the folks that have won with them,” Blaney said. “That will be something I’ll always remember.”
With his first trip to Victory Lane, the speedster also finished first in three stages. That included the spring showdown at Texas Motor Speedway. In that affair, Blaney swept the opening two stages of the event. He went on to dominate the race, leading 148 laps. Unfortunately, a sour ending that included his pit stop at the end of Stage 2 relegated him to a 12th-place result.
Ryan Blaney followed the contest at Texas by capturing his first career pole. By the way, it would be his first of two in 2017. At Kansas from the pole, the driver of the #21 car was out front for 83 laps. He went on to win the second stage and finished fourth. In fact, Kansas Speedway is the only track where Blaney has multiple top fives (3). He followed that performance up with a third-place result once again in the fall.
As a result, the three-stage wins during the regular season helped place Ryan Blaney begin the post-season as the ninth seed. Blaney also entered the Round of 16 at Chicagoland Speedway with eight playoff points. The youngster was not done yet. Blaney’s best consecutive run of recording stage points came in the playoffs. The talented motorist earned top 10-finishes in nine consecutive Stage 1 or 2’s. The magnificent run started in the second stage at Charlotte. Eventually, it ended in the second stage back at Texas Speedway. In the middle of the run, he also reeled in a fourth stage win of the at Talladega Superspeedway.
“You have to start off these races so good to try to run up there and collect those points,” Ryan Blaney said. “We’ve done that. We know how to do it. We just have to keep getting faster and pushing forward. The rest should take care of itself.”
Ryan Blaney earned five top 10’s in the playoffs. Obviously, three came in a row at Kansas, Martinsville Speedway, and Texas. The steady performances pushed him through to the Round of 8. Even with the momentum, Blaney missed the cutoff for the Championship 4 by 23 points.
When all was said and done, he had finished ninth in the final standings. Pretty good considering the company’s best finish was sixth in 1994. The Wood Brothers did it that year with Hall of Fame driver Morgan Shepherd. Also, Blaney’s 301 laps led this season is the most by the team since 1982. Another Hall of Fame speedster, Neil Bonnet, was up front for 412 laps for that year of racing.
“It was a great year,” Ryan Blaney said. “We wish we could have fought for a championship at Homestead but I was really proud of the effort we put forth this year. It would have been amazing to get to the final race at Miami with a chance to win it all. Still, it was a solid year for myself and Woods Brothers Racing.”
Ryan Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins will now take their show over to Team Penske. Blaney will be guiding the #12 Ford team in 2018. Along with that, he also will pick up to solid teammates in Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
“There’s a lot of personnel that is going to be the same. That will be really nice, but we have a few new members that will come on too,” Ryan Blaney said. “Just trying to get everybody knowing each other and working well together is the big thing. Jeremy Bullins is a good guy for that. He definitely kind of holds court very well. He’s a great leader and I think he does a good job for everyone starting to work well together.”
Ryan Blaney Bio:
Ryan Blaney will drive the #12 Team Penske Ford in 2018. Before that, he drove the iconic #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Blaney also makes limited starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Team Penske. The quick learner earned his first career Monster Energy Series win at Pocono Raceway in 2017. Overall, Blaney has nine career triumphs. He has claimed the checkered flag five times in the Xfinity Series. He also has four wins in the Camping World Truck Series.
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