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Blaney has added incentive heading into Michigan

August 13, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Blaney has added incentive heading into Michigan
Trucks Series points leader knows his sponsor is in spotlight

Talk about your highs and lows. Ryan Blaney rolled into Michigan International Speedway a year ago, fresh off his second career win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

He failed to complete a single lap at MIS.

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Contact with Bubba Wallace on the opening lap sent Blaney’s Brad Keselowski Racing Ford nose-first into the wall.

The winner at Pocono just two weeks earlier was out of the Michigan race almost before it began. “Last year was such a huge letdown,” Blaney, 20, said, “because we got wrecked on Lap 1 and then I had to go talk to about 2,000 people after the race. It was just terrible.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good run and I think we have enough speed in our truck to be good.”

The large group waiting to meet and hear Blaney afterward was on hand through his team's sponsor, Cooper Standard.

This year, the Novi, Michigan-based company is not only once again helping fund the No. 29 entry, but also has joined forces with team owner Brad Keselowski to sponsor Saturday’s 100-lap race through its own Careers for Veterans program as well as Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation.

The Careers for Veterans 200 is schedule for Saturday at MIS (1 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1). Having his sponsor's name on the race as well as the side of his truck is added incentive to do well, Blaney said.

"It's huge. It's going to be the biggest race for us this year," he said. "For Cooper Standard to be sponsoring the race, and it’s our last race with Careers for Veterans on the truck this year, it'd be really special if we could win that one."

Another huge turnout of fans affiliated with the company is expected to be on hand.

"And that's awesome," he said. "To have that kind of support from a company, for a truck sponsor that’s huge. Hopefully we can capitalize on that deal."

Last year, Cooper Standard employed 259 veterans, according to the company. This year it has eclipsed the 300 mark.

"It's been cool to get to know a little bit about the program and what they like to do. It's such a good relationship because Brad does so much with the military personnel and now with Cooper Standard ... it's good to be a part of it and get to know the people.

"I know the program is growing now; it's a work in progress. I hope we can be a part of that for a long, long time."

Blaney has finished seventh or better in nine of this year's 11 races in the Truck Series. He took over the points lead with a third-place finish at Eldora, and leads Johnny Sauter (ThorSport Racing) by seven points.

Problems earlier this year at Kansas and Charlotte "really hurt us," he said. "I didn't think we were going to get back up here in the points but some people began to have trouble, then we starting putting together good runs and top-five finishes. ... The bad thing is we've used up our mulligans. We can't afford to have any more issues. The good thing -- this team does a great job of making sure we don't have any mechanical issues."

Although he's still looking for his first win this season, leading the points lessens some of the pressure of getting back into Victory Lane. Run well enough, long enough, and the wins will come.

"You want to be up front and you want to be setting the pace in the points, ahead of everyone else," he said. "We want to win really badly, we want to get Ford a win, get Cooper Standard wins and get this whole team a win. We've been close to a couple, just haven't been able to follow through. We're getting better every week and getting close to where we need to be.

"I'd rather be leading the points right now because I know we're getting better and we're really close to wins. It's always nice to be out front and have everybody chasing you."

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