ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Ryan Blaney is actively involved in the search for his crew chief.
Blaney adopted the voice of Jeremy Bullins in his ear when he signed with Wood Brothers Racing as a rookie in 2016. When Blaney made the transition to Team Penske in 2018, so did Bullins. The two worked together on the No. 12 Ford through the 2019 season.
Before the 2020 season, team owner Roger Penske switched up all three of his crew chiefs, pairing Blaney with Todd Gordon.
Well, just this week, Gordon announced he will retire from his crew-chief role at the conclusion of the 2021 schedule, and Blaney is already searching for his next play-caller.
“I appreciate Mr. Penske letting me have a big say in it,” Blaney said Saturday after the NASCAR Cup Series’ lone practice at Road America. “I think that’s the right thing to do, is really have everybody talk it out and try to figure out the right person for the job. Whether he’s internal or external, we have options. At least people we think can do it. Hopefully, they want to do it.”
Blaney and Bullins won three races together. Blaney and Gordon have two victories under their belts with 17 chances left to add to the total, starting with Sunday’s Jockey Made in America 250 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM).
The pair is locked into the playoffs thanks to their win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. They have three top-five and nine top-10 finishes through 19 races in 2021.
“It kind of stunk that I didn’t really get a full season of practice or qualifying to work with Todd,” Blaney said. “Because those first four races in 2020, we were spectacular and we had time to work with each other and really understand our cars. And then that was kind of taken away, unfortunately (due to COVID-19).”
Apart from the runner-up finish in the 2020 Daytona 500, the results themselves for the No. 12 team in the first four races last season don’t scream spectacular – 11th, 19th and 37th. But looking deeper into the details, Blaney led laps in three of the four events. He was even atop the points standings after Weeks 2 and 3.
Blaney later won at Talladega Superspeedway in June to qualify for the playoffs, where he was ultimately eliminated after the Round of 16. He finished ninth in the final standings.
“Definitely a new adventure for me; it’ll be pretty good,” Blaney said. “But right now, focused on ending Todd’s racing career with a bang.”