By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Throughout the last week much of the talk surrounding Ryan Blaney and The Wood Brothers Racing Team has been about the new charter system and their lack of a charter.
After Daytona 500 qualifying was in the record books on Sunday afternoon, Blaney was one of two open teams to be locked in to the Great American Race on speed. The other driver locked in on speed based on qualifying was Matt Dibenedetto.
When asked what it means to be locked into the Daytona 500, Blaney said, “It’s just really nice to be locked in, you know that’s the main goal to be honest with you, to be locked into the 500. It gives us a lot of relief going into Thursday’s Duels.
“We didn’t have that last year, we had to race our way in Thursday last year. It’s just nice to have that little bit of security and just be able to go run our race, not always worrying about what can happen. Just great that they brought us a fast car, it’s all credit to the Wood Brothers and the Penske Racing Team.”
Blaney also touched on his first contract during NASCAR’s annual Media Day, “Well, I’ve been really lucky to be with, to have been surrounded by some really good people. From the Penske side, when I signed with them in 2012, and my agency who manages me, they do a fantastic job taking care of me. I’m very thankful for them, just lucky to surround myself with good people that always watch over that.
“When you’re a kid that signs his first contract, like I did in 2012, you would do anything just to get a chance. Now when you sign contracts, you look at that a little bit. You’re still trying to make it. As a younger driver, there’s always someone else waiting to take your place. You can’t get too greedy on the other side of it. Penske and The Wood Brothers have always been very fair to me.”
Blaney, who made his first NASCAR national series start, in the then Nationwide Series, at Richmond in 2012, has quickly made his way up through the ranks. He won in only his third Truck Series start, at Iowa in 2012, and has won at least one Truck race each season. To his credit, Blaney scored his first Nationwide (now XFINITY) Series win at Kentucky in 2013 in thrilling fashion.
Blaney also talked about his journey from late models, up to the Cup Series, “It’s been a lot of fun, it’s happened very fast. I remember that in the beginning of 2012, there wasn’t a lot going on some K&N and Late Models and had a few Nationwide races lined up with Tommy Baldwin, who my dad was driving for. There really wasn’t much on the table, and we had a good run at Richmond, and that’s kind of what caught people’s eyes.
“Honestly, I don’t think it could’ve gone any better than what it has; it’s gone very well, to be driving for Mr. Penske for four years now, and to be driving for Brad’s Truck team for a couple years, and now the Wood Brothers, it’s pretty amazing to be a part of and fortunate to be in the position we’re at and the opportunities I’ve been given.”
On getting re-acclimated to the racecar Blaney mentioned, “It is weird, ramping up, because you think your ready to go, you think everything is going to get going and then they make you sit for two days, and it’s kind of unsettling. At least we can get on the racetrack and say we’re locked in. It’s made the last two days a whole lot easier knowing that we’re locked into the 500.”
Blaney, along with his Team Penske affiliates, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano topped Saturday’s 2nd practice, as they were the only ones to draft during the pre-qualifying practice. The move turned some heads as it gave Blaney some extra security if qualifying had been rained out.
Blaney stated, “It made me feel good to know that they (Penske) are always thinking about us. Penske does an amazing job, always thinking ahead, they always take as many precautions as they can, just in case cause you never know what can happen. They were definitely thinking ahead on that, and it’s a very smart call by them. It did make me feel good, and it made The Wood Brothers feel great to be a part of that whole team, we have a very strong alliance with that team, and knowing that they’ll do almost anything to help us out.”
Image: NASCAR Media Group