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Rookie Blaney No Stranger To Martinsville

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 1 2016
Ryan Blaney, driver of the Wood Brothers Racing Ford, is new to Sprint Cup but is not new to Martinsville Speedway, site of this weekend's race. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Ryan Blaney, driver of the Wood Brothers Racing Ford, is new to Sprint Cup but is not new to Martinsville Speedway, site of this weekend’s race. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Ryan Blaney is no stranger to Martinsville Speedway, having produced four top-10 finishes in five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the half-mile track; a fact the 22-year-old believes will benefit him in his Sprint Cup debut Sunday in the STP 500.

sprint-logo-08“Even though they are completely different vehicles, there are a lot of things you can take away here,” Blaney said Friday. “You’re always wanting to conserve brakes here. That’s one of the biggest things and rear tires, I think, are some of the most important things. That’s something I struggled with in the truck of being too aggressive and burning my rear tires off. That’s something I try to prepare as much as I can for and it just gets worse in a Cup car as you up the horsepower.”

In an effort to solve the problem, Blaney has discussed the situation extensively with his father, a former Sprint Cup competitor, and watched numerous videos.

“I’ve talked to my dad more about this place than any other race track just because I feel like I’ve struggled here the most in my career,” the High Point, N.C., native said. “It’s a whole different driving style from qualifying to the race here, so tomorrow I’ll get a better read of what to do and messing around with that stuff.”

Blaney’s Sprint Cup debut at the tough, paperclip-shaped track comes with the Wood Brothers, who hail from just 20 miles away in Stuart, Va. It’s the first time the Wood Brothers have tackled their home track since 2011 and the first time since 2006 the team has competed full time in NASCAR’s premier series.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood says the organization’s alliance with Team Penske has been beneficial in aiding their full-time return.  

“You’re really confident in your race cars, pit crew and driver,” Wood noted.

He said running a 16-race limited schedule last year with Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins also was beneficial.

“Everybody got to know everybody,” Wood explained. “It was Ryan’s first year running multiple

Ryan Blaney has a short history as a race car driver.

Ryan Blaney has a short history as a race car driver.

races in a Cup car and it was Jeremy’s first year as a crew chief. He’d been involved with other teams as an engineer in Cup for a long time, but it’s different when the heat is on you, you’re the crew chief. Looking back, it’s like we were practicing for this year.”

Even though Team Penske has worked with the Wood Brothers in regards to the cars and personnel required for a full-time effort, Wood noted it’s still difficult to work within other teams.

“With the world of simulation now, if your chassis are not the same and your bodies are not the same, it’s harder to share (information) than you would think it would be,” Wood said. “But with the way Ford Performance approaches it, they have an engineering group … that works with all the teams and that kinda helps everyone.”

Ryan Blaney said Friday he had discovered the Wood Brothers were “awesome” storytellers.

“I love old racing stories and knowing the history of our sport and growing up around it, I like to learn as much as I can about it,” Blaney said. “Leonard told me a really neat story this week at the shop. Leonard didn’t drive too much and tested a car out here one time. He was messing with intakes like air flow and air boxes and he would run a hose down it and run the hose back to his mouth. He would blow in the intake to see if it made more power or suck air out of it to see if it made more power. He said neither of them worked, so he just kind of did away with that project.

“I was fascinated by it and that kind of shows you the brain he has that he would even think about something like that, let alone be doing that and driving.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 1 2016
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