By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
*Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for 24 drivers. We will release one driver preview per day over a 24-day stretch.
Years in Cup: 1
Career Wins: 0
Biggest Accomplishment: Led 252 laps en route to winning Xfinity Race at Iowa in 2015
Ryan Blaney flashed signs of brilliance throughout his rookie campaign in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but overall his first year was wildly inconsistent. Blaney’s best finish on the season was fourth, which he achieved twice, but he also had 11 finishes of 25th-or-worse.
Several times throughout the year the seemingly calm, cool and collected Blaney made mistakes which usually led to brushing the wall, which ruined many potential top-10 runs. After the final race of the year in Homestead, where Blaney finished 26th, the driver admitted that he has to work on his patience going forward.
“We just struggled tonight. I made a lot of mistakes. I made a big mistake early and we ended up getting a flat tire out of it. I just hit the wall early being impatient. That just wasn’t smart, so that’s something I need to be better at and not being so impatient,” said Blaney. “We learned a lot this year. It was a fun year and I’m just looking forward to years to come. This team does a great job. We’ll learn during the off-season and then come back.”
Heading into 2017, Blaney and his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Team have the security of a Charter as they announced in the offseason that they will lease one from Go FAS Racing. This means the team will be able to push the envelope more in qualifying in an effort to get stronger starting spots.
Blaney essentially drives a third Team Penske car, as the Wood Brothers Racing Team has a technical alliance with the super team. And he comes into the season with a lot more experience than he had a year ago. Blaney recorded just two DNFs (Did Not Finish) last season, so while his results mimicked the ups and downs of a roller coaster, the 23-year-old driver logged a bunch of laps.
You would expect that Blaney starts knocking on the door to Victory Lane this year, so long as he doesn’t experience a sophomore slump. Blaney has shown a knack for speed at NASCAR’s bread and butter — the 1.5-mile intermediate ovals. Expect Blaney — who already has eight NASCAR National Series victories to his credit — to be in the mix for the win at places like Las Vegas, Chicago, Kansas and Kentucky.
Other 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Driver Previews
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.