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Wood Brothers Align With Penske; Put Blaney In No. 21 Car

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, August 14 2014

Ryan Blaney has a legendary ride. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

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Wood Brothers Racing announced Thursday that it has entered into a technical alliance with Team Penske and that Ryan Blaney will drive the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2015 for at least 12 races.

In addition, Blaney with practice and qualify the car this weekend at Michigan International Speedway while Trevor Bayne competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio. Bayne will start from the back of the field for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.

The Wood Brothers have been participating in an alliance with Roush Fenway Racing the last several years.

The following is a transcript of today’s teleconference formally announcing the deal:

EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – “This whole thing kind of started when Trevor announced that he was gonna be moving to the No. 6 car with Roush Fenway next year. Of course, that left us without a driver. 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. As ironic as it may seem, we get ready to come here to Michigan like a month ago and we look at the schedules and we realize what a conflict it is over at Mid-Ohio versus MIS, so we talked about it and talked about it and tried to figure out how to do it and we called on Ryan Blaney to come in and step in for Trevor to qualify and practice on Friday and Saturday because we didn’t want to interfere with the championship run he’s having in Nationwide and that’s how we got here.”

RYAN BLANEY, Driver – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – “First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone at the Wood Brothers and Ford and everyone at Motorcraft and Quick Lane for giving me such a great opportunity. They’ve been great to me here over these past couple of years to give me great opportunities and getting to know Leonard and Eddie and Len has been really special to me and getting able to drive this No. 21 car with such historic names who have driven it like the Yarboroughs, Junior Johnsons, Bill Elliott, it’s unbelievable to me and 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.”

TRAVIS HUNT, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Motorsports Marketing Manager, Ford Customer Service Division – “We’ve had a great relationship with the Wood Brothers since 2001. As you know, Ford Motor Company has a great family history as well as the Wood Brothers, especially with 64 continuous years of running Fords and 98 wins in those Ford vehicles. I just couldn’t imagine a better partnership for Motorcraft and Quick Lane than with Wood Brothers Racing. As for Ryan, he’s certainly proven he’s capable of winning. We’re really excited about having him in our vehicle next year. We actually had him up at the office to take him through brand school this week. He showed a ton of interest in the Motorcraft and Quick Lane brand and it’s pretty clear that he’s a car guy just like us, so we’re really excited about having him on board. Of course, the last time we had a driver with one Sprint Cup start we had a little bit of magic in Daytona on start number two, so we’re hoping we can recreate a little bit of that spark with Ryan and we know he’s gonna get the Wood Brothers and Motorcraft/Quick Lane back into victory circle here sometime soon, so we’re very excited to have him.”

TIM CINDRIC, President, Team Penske – “Obviously, Ryan has been a big part of our organization the past couple of years and as we were trying to figure out the next steps in his career, Eddie and Len had reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, I know that Ryan has been a part of your program, but is there an opportunity for us to get together not only with Ryan but get together and learn from each other?’ It’s something that’s a bit foreign to us, to be honest, because it’s not something we’ve done in the past. We’ve been approached in different ways and, as you guys know, 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.’ But as we talked about this more and more it made more and more sense collectively, not only for just one reason but many, so certainly it will be a learning experience for us. 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.”

JAMIE ALLISON, Director, Ford Racing – “First, I’d like to start off by congratulating Ryan. At the end of the day this is racing and he is a winner. Many drivers have the opportunity to be in the position to win and they’ve got to seize the moment and he has shown that he’s able to do that, so that’s important. Obviously, he’s leading the championship in the Truck Series. That shows the caliber of driver he is to run for a championship as well as win races. With regard to the Penske relationship and Penske alliance, our motto at Ford Motor Company is One Ford – the One Ford teamwork – so whenever we see an opportunity for our teams to work together, especially in this case where we have an alliance developing between Penske and the Wood Brothers, that just seemed to be a very natural culmination of the type of spirit by which we run our program. So I’d like to wrap up by saying, Ryan, welcome to Cup. You’ve got a bright future and you are one of the young guns of the sport. We’re glad to have you on the Ford team.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN AS FAR AS THE NEXT CHAPTER FOR THE WOOD BROTHERS? “We’ve had Trevor for the last four years and had that one great big win at Daytona. 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. Like I said, 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.”

TIM CINDRIC CONTINUED – WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR RYAN IN NATIONWIDE NEXT YEAR? “It’s probably a little early to speculate too far on that. As I sit here today, I think our Nationwide program will be somewhat similar to what we’ve done this year, where the 22 car is shared throughout our organization, including Ryan. So I don’t see that changing too much at this point in time, but it might be a little early.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – IS IT OK WITH YOU IF YOUR SCHEDULE IS SPLIT BETWEEN DIFFERENT SERIES? “Yeah, as a race car driver we like seat time no matter what kind of car it’s in. It seems to work out very successfully for other drivers, just getting on tracks a lot more and being able to drive race cars in general and keep yourself fresh. I’d like to do as much racing as possible next year and that stuff will come later on down the road. We’re just excited to announce the stuff today and, like I said, 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.”

HOW DIFFICULT WILL IT BE ADJUSTING TO CUP AND NATIONWIDE NEXT YEAR? “I don’t think it’ll be incredibly difficult. We have a great team with the alliance with Wood Brothers and Penske. I think we have a great chance and with how strong both teams have run this year and the great people they have is gonna make things more simple. It might take a little bit of time just because all three series drive so differently from the Trucks to Nationwide to Cup cars, but I think in time, hopefully it won’t take too much time, but I’ll get used to driving the Cup cars more and more and these races are definitely gonna help that and being able to have a couple Cup starts this year with Penske has been really big for me to kind of get a feel for these Cup cars a little bit and really prepare me for this next season.”

TIM CINDRIC CONTINUED – WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR TEAM PENSKE? “Obviously, to start with we’re working with an organization that has been as successful at Daytona and some of the superspeedways and bigger tracks as anyone has. The success that we’ve had there has been there, but certainly not to the extent that these guys have had, so that’s something right off the top that we feel like we can learn from, but also knowing that there’s another car out there, a third car, that’s running the same specification cars and equipment that we are with our two cars can only continue to progress our program in a faster way, and right now, especially with some of the rule changes they’re looking at for next year, being able to have more cars out there learning quicker – ultimately, we’d love to run three or four cars like some of these cars do, but I think the strength we have in terms of running two cars with the group that we have this is a good move for us relative to also having a driver in that third car that knows us very well.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WAY YOU HAVE PROGRESSED THROUGH THE DIFFERENT SERIES? “Like I said before, it’s a dream come true, and I think we’re taking the right steps and not progressing too quickly. Sometimes you can make that mistake of maybe moving up the ranks too fast and then maybe it takes you a few years to really get situation in the Cup Series, but I think we’ve had great steps to take and being able to run a couple years in the Truck Series, being able to run a lot of Nationwide races, and now running a couple of Cup races this year, I think, has really prepared me for this next season and I think this next season just prepares me more and more if we can get a full-time deal in Cup. So I don’t think we’re progressing too fast at all. I think it’s the right steps and I’m just very fortunate to be with great teams that give me the opportunities.”

WHAT STICKS OUT THE MOST IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR? “Just being surrounded by great people. Brad Keselowski gave me a chance to run his trucks in 2012 and it’s just remarkable to me of how fortunate I’ve been to have a great father, for one, to give me most of these opportunities and I’m thankful for everyone from Brad to Team Penske to the Wood Brothers to keep giving me great opportunities. I’m really thankful for that. Like I said, it’s a dream come true. As a racer who has grown up at the race track with my dad, it’s very cool and especially watching this 21 car go around the race track when I was a kid in the garage has always been really special to me, so it’s just remarkable and I’m very fortunate to be in the spot I’m in.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – IS TRYING TO FIND A DRIVER TO RUN A LIMITED SCHEDULE TOUGHER THAN IF YOU WERE RUNNING THE FULL SCHEDULE? DOES IT LIMIT YOUR POOL OF POTENTIAL CANDIDATES? “Really, in our situation we had kind of made up our mind early on that we wanted Ryan, so we went in that direction and didn’t really explore a lot of other options. It wasn’t really that hard because he wanted to do it and we wanted to do it, so we’re gonna go do it.”

WHAT ABOUT YOUR SCHEDULE FOR 2015? “Our schedule right now looks almost identical to what we’re doing this year, but we’re always chasing other dollars to run more races and we’re certainly gonna be in a position to do that.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – ANY PLANS TO GET YOU IN MORE CUP RACES THIS SEASON? “Yes. I’ll practice and qualify for Trevor while he’s in Mid-Ohio doing his full Nationwide deal, so I’m really excited to be able to get in the Wood Brothers car and be able to work with those guys closely and get a feel for Michigan. It’s a very special weekend for everybody up here from Ford, being in their backyard, and I’m just really honored to be a part of it. I have my second Cup start is going to be with Penske at Talladega in October, so that’s all that we have planned for this year, and I’ll just try and focus and prepare for 2015.”

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, August 14 2014
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