Ryan Blaney 2014 Season Review

December 18, 2014

In 2014, Ryan Blaney demonstrated not only his talent, but also his adaptability as he routinely and successfully raced in all three of NASCAR’s national series. The transition between a full-time schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) with his Team Penske teammate’s squad at Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR), a partial NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) season and two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) starts with Team Penske, proved Blaney’s wide range of skill in 2014.

Although Blaney was not able to bring home the 2014 NCWTS title, the 20-year-old, High Point, North Carolina native had a career season full of amazements and achievements. Throughout the 2014 season, Blaney further established himself as one of NASCAR’s rising stars. His 2014 season set the stage for him to take his career to the next level in the Sprint Cup Series in 2015.

“We believe Ryan is one of the most promising young drivers in NASCAR and we want to continue his growth and development with Team Penske,” said Roger Penske.

After posting a win at Kentucky among three NNS starts in the Team Penske Ford in 2013, Blaney earned more opportunities to show what he was capable of. In January of 2014, it was announced that the third-generation driver would have the chance to expand his driving duties for Team Penske. Blaney’s schedule consisted of 14 Nationwide Series races and also his Sprint Cup Series debut, running two events behind the wheel of the No. 12 SKF Ford Fusion. Blaney also ran a full Truck Series season for BKR.

Over his 14 NNS starts this season for Team Penske, Blaney completed a total of 3,072 laps, leading 303 laps along the way. He also scored 10 top-five results and finished inside of the top 10 in 92.9% of his starts.

Blaney’s 14 Nationwide Series starts in 2014 included 10 behind the wheel of the No. 22 Discount Tire/SKF/Hertz Ford Mustang for Team Penske, sharing the car’s driving duties between Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Alex Tagliani and Michael McDowell. Between the five drivers, they were able to capture Team Penske’s second consecutive NNS Owners’ Series Championship.

Perhaps Blaney’s biggest win of the season came in the NNS race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22 as he captured the checkered flag with a late pass on Kyle Busch. Blaney’s No. 22 Discount Tire Ford bolted past Busch on a restart with six laps remaining to win the Food City 300 for his second career Nationwide Series victory.

“It’s awesome to be in Bristol Victory Lane,” said Blaney after the race. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years with my dad (longtime NASCAR driver Dave Blaney) and it’s been one of my favorite race tracks to watch a race. There’s so much history here that it’s awesome to finally be in Victory Lane.” 

Four of Blaney’s starts came in the team’s No. 12 Ford Mustang, which raced at select events for Team Penske in 2014. The No. 12 crew was comprised mainly of Team Penske teammates that work in the race shop for the majority of the season and members of the Team Penske test team. This team finished inside of the top five in every race it entered in 2014 and led a total of 38 laps with Blaney, contending for race wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Blaney’s long-anticipated Sprint Cup Series debut came in early May at Kansas Speedway. The young driver had to earn his way into the field based on his qualifying time. Blaney successfully drove his way into the second round of knockout qualifying, earning a 21st-place starting position in the SKF Ford Fusion. He wound up finishing 27th in his first career Cup Series start. Blaney’s second NSCS start came on October 19 at Talladega Superspeedway.  In just his second race in the big cars, Blaney led the Team Penske charge in qualifying for the GEICO 500. He was able to make it all the way through to the final round of qualifying and turned the fourth quickest time in the final session.  Blaney went on to lead 15 laps, his first ever laps led in the Cup Series, and finished the event in the 22nd position.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Blaney won two poles, recorded 12 top-five finishes and scored one victory, a memorable win at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park road course when he edged German Quiroga by 0.049 seconds. The victory and his season-long consistency helped Blaney fight for the series title as he wound up finishing second in the NCWTS championship.

At the conclusion of the 2014 NASCAR season, Blaney posted a combined total of two victories, 22 top-five finishes, 30 top-10 results and three poles positions. At the annual NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series banquet, Blaney was honored as the NCWTS championship runner-up, but that wasn't his only award. He was also named the Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver during a recent poll conducted by NASCAR.

As a result of his impressive 2014 season, Blaney will get a chance to take the next step in his career development in 2015. Next year, the young driver will drive the historic Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. As part of the new technical alliance between Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney will run at least 12 races next season in the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford and will make his debut for the Wood Brothers in the 2015 Daytona 500.

"Ryan is a third-generation racer and one of the best young drivers out there. He has been a winner in many different kinds of cars since he started racing at a very young age and we fully expect that to continue while he is with us," said Eddie and Len Wood, co-owners of Wood Brothers Racing.

In addition to his Sprint Cup Series duties, the 20-year-old Blaney will continue to share seat time in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang in the Nationwide Series next season.

 “I think we’re taking the right steps and not progressing too quickly,’’ said Blaney. “Sometimes you can make that mistake of maybe moving up the ranks too fast and maybe it takes you a few years to really get situated in the Cup Series. Being able to run a couple of years in the Truck series, being able to run a lot of Nationwide Series races and now a couple of Sprint Cup races this year, I think has really prepared me for this next season.’’