By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on March 18, 2017 | 10:30 A.M. EST
Blaney, who will start second in Sunday’s Camping World 500, is sixth in the standings. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney has been a pleasant surprise to many for his solid start to the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
The 23-year-old Blaney comes into Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway sixth in the standings on the strength of a second place Daytona 500 finish and a seventh last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The young driver has the storied Wood Brother team the highest its been in the standings since 1992 and he sees no reason to believe things will slow down.
“Just keep doing what we have been doing,” said Blaney, who will start second in Sunday’s fourth race of the season. “We want to get better every single week, be aggressive, work really hard and it is really early in the year and you never know how mid season goes but you always have to keep improving. I feel like the fire in everyone’s belly is burning bright.”
While some are taken aback by Blaney’s hot start and the performance of the Wood Brothers team, he says with every passing week of success optimism becomes even stronger.
“Everyone’s motivation is the same,” he explained. “Running well pumps everyone else. It makes you want it even more to be better and better. The communication side, the mood in the garage area and race shop is really good right now. To be honest, everywhere between the Wood Brothers and Team Penske we are all fast right now.
“It is easy to be motivated when you are fast and just need to work on little things and not completely overhaul race cars. It is nice to be ahead at the beginning of the year. You never want to play catch-up. You want to be ahead and try to stay ahead.”
The Wood Brothers relationship with Team Penske has greatly improved the team’s performance. Blaney is a de facto teammate with Joey Logano, who won the pole for Sunday’s Phoenix race, and Brad Keselowski. That alliance and the knowledge shared between the drivers and organizations has been paramount to Blaney’s impressive effort.
“It has helped a ton,” Blaney said. “It has put us in position to run well ever since 2015 when we did our part time schedule with them. That has been a huge help and the Penske group has been very open to what we need and not only on the driver’s side with Brad and Joey but on the team side as well. Our crew chiefs are very close and sit down a lot and same with the engineers. Everyone back at the shop, they all work together.
“I think that is what you need to have a successful team, even if it is a one car team and you don’t have a teammate. The more you can share information, the more you are willing, the better all around it is. That has always been the model at Penske since I got there and it is nice to have the Wood Brothers in the same loop as well. That has helped us out more than I could ever think it would.”
Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Sunday’s Camping World 500 from Phoenix Raceway, beginning at 2:30 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.