Ryan Blaney to drive Wood Brothers Cup car in '15
August 14, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Ryan Blaney will fill in for Trevor Bayne in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford Friday and Saturday at Michigan International Speedway as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams begin preparations for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400.
Next season, Blaney will replace Bayne on a more permanent basis.
Blaney, 20, has been named driver for the legendary team beginning in 2015, and will compete in at least 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events.
Bayne will move into a full-time role in Sprint Cup with Roush Fenway Racing next season. This weekend, he will be at Mid-Ohio to compete in the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200, creating the opening for Blaney to practice and qualify the Sprint Cup car for the Wood Brothers.
The opportunity to drive the familiar red and white No. 21 Ford, which has carried some of the sport's most legendary figures to victory lane is "unbelievable," Blaney said.
"It's really a dream come true so I couldn't be happier.
"I'm ready to finish out this 2014 season very strong, try to go after this Truck championship and I'm really excited and looking forward to '15. I think it'll be a great year for us."
Blaney currently competes in the Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing. He is the series' points leader after 11 of this season's 22 events with a series' best seven top-five finishes. He has two career wins.
Eddie Wood said the search for Bayne's replacement began as soon as Bayne announced his plans to move up to Cup full-time with RFR.
"Of course, that left us without a driver," Wood said. "As the summer went on the name that kept popping up was Ryan Blaney and it just kept coming up over and over and over again, so we went in that direction and fortunately we put that deal together.
"We've had Trevor for the last four years and had that one great big win at Daytona (in 2011). That was almost a life-changing event for us as well as Trevor. I hope that we can repeat some of that success with Ryan.
"He's the next big deal, I think, and we're real excited to have him. We've got a lot of pictures on our wall up in Virginia in the museum and we'd sure love to put him up there as a winner."
Wood said for now the team's limited schedule likely would remain unchanged for next season, with the team competing in at least 12 Sprint Cup events. Motorcraft/Quick Lane will return as primary sponsor for 2015.
Additional funding could mean an expanded schedule.
"We're always chasing other dollars to run more races and we're certainly going to be in a position to do that," Wood said.
In addition to the driver move, officials also announced the formation of a technical alliance with Team Penske, which fields Ford teams in the Sprint Cup Series for drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
Since 2012, Blaney has made several starts for Team Penske in the Nationwide Series, and made his Sprint Cup debut earlier this year with the organization, finishing 27th at Kansas. He is scheduled to make one more Sprint Cup start with the team this year, at Talladega.
The alliance "is something that's foreign to us to be honest," said Team Penske president Tim Cindric, "because it's not something we've done in the past.
"We've been approached in different ways and … some of that has to do with how well you run and how well you don't run. When you're running up front, everybody wants to work with you and when you're not, then you don't get as many calls. But our answer has usually been the same. Our answer has usually been, ‘We've got enough to focus on at our place.'"
Working closely with the Wood Brothers made sense "for many reasons," he said.
"We're certainly focused on not only ensuring that Ryan has the tools to be successful and continues his career, but ensuring that the Wood Brothers have everything that we have."
In addition to his Sprint Cup duties, Blaney will likely continue to share seat time in the No. 22 Ford fielded by Team Penske in the Nationwide Series next season.
"I'd like to do as much racing as possible next year and that stuff will come later on down the road," Blaney said. "We're just excited to announce the stuff today. … I'd like to race as much as possible but we're focused on finishing out this year strong and I'm really excited about the Wood Brothers deal next year and I'm sure we'll figure all that stuff out later."
Wood Brothers Racing is one of the longest tenured groups competing in NASCAR's premier series. Founded by Glen Wood when NASCAR was just beginning to take root in the early 1950s, the team has won 98 races and has always been affiliated with Ford Motor Company.
Glen and younger brother Leonard Wood, who served as crew chief, are members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Glen's children, Eddie, Len and Kim, run the organization today.