Hiring Blaney Returns Penske To Three-Car Operation

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, July 27 2017

Ryan Blaney will join Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski at Team Penske.

Rising star Ryan Blaney will exit Wood Brothers Racing and join Team Penske as a full-time driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2018, as team-owner Roger Penske returns to a three-car operation in stock car racing’s premier series.

Blaney, who also signed a multi-year contract extension with “The Captain,” will pilot the No. 12 Ford Fusion beginning with the annual non-point “Clash” event at Daytona International Speedway in February.

Blaney will team with current Penske Cup drivers Brad Keselowski _ the 2012 series champion who signed a multi-year contract extension Tuesday to continue in the No. 2 Ford _ and Joey Logano, who signed a multi-year contract extension to drive the No. 22 Fusion earlier this season.  

Simultaneously, Wood Brothers Racing announced that Paul Menard, currently of Richard Childress Racing, will join their Ford team in 2018 to run the No. 21 Fusion vacated by Blaney and a select number of NASCAR Xfinity Series races for Team Penske next year.

“For some time now, we have wanted to bring Ryan in to run a third car for us, but things just needed to make sense from a timing and business perspective,” Penske said in a statement from Mooresville, N.C.  “We’ve been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team. The benefits of having three fulltime teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”

Blaney made his MENCS debut in 2014 for Team Penske and has driven for Wood Brothers Racing fulltime the last two seasons. Blaney earned his first-career Cup Series win earlier this season at Pocono Raceway, giving the Wood Brothers their first MENCS win since the 2011 season. Blaney also scored his first Cup Series pole this season at Kansas Speedway. He finished second in the 2016 MENCS Rookie of the Year standings.

Blaney has been a part of Team Penske since 2012 and has earned five NASCAR Xfinity wins for the team. He was part of the No. 22 team’s three-straight NXS Owners’ Championships from 2013-2015.

“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney, a third-generation driver from High Point, N.C. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. I’ve had some great moments with both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers over the last few years. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without Roger, Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me.

“I’m thrilled knowing that Brad and Joey are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”

Earlier this season, Team Penske announced that it signed Logano to a multi-year contract through the 2022 season and beyond. On Tuesday, the team announced it had come to terms with Keselowski for a multi-year agreement.

“Bad Brad” will drive the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford well into the future. The multi-year extension ensures that the 2012 Cup champion and 23-time MENCS race-winner will continue to be an integral part of Team Penske_ the only team he has driven for fulltime over the course of his 10-year MENCS career.

The announcement followed the news that No. 2 team crew chief, Paul Wolfe, also has agreed to a multi-year extension with Team Penske.

“In the time that Brad has driven for Team Penske, he has risen to the top echelon of stars in NASCAR,” Penske said. “Brad and Paul have established a terrific, winning combination and they are both real leaders within our team. More than just wins and championships, Brad is an important part our relationship with Ford Performance and his work with the Checkered Flag Foundation shows what kind of person he is away from the track. There is no question he continues to be a great fit for our organization.”

Since joining Team Penske in 2009, Keselowski has earned 22 MENCS wins and the 2012 series championship while driving the iconic No. 2 Ford. In addition, the Rochester Hills, Mich., native has scored 29 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) victories, won the 2010 NXS Drivers’ championship and has been a part of three NXS Owners’ titles while driving the No. 22 Ford Mustang. Keselowski has produced two MENCS victories and one NXS win so far this season and has qualified for his sixth trip to the NASCAR Playoffs.

“Roger and everyone at Team Penske have given me everything we need to win championships at the highest levels of NASCAR,” Keselowski said. “As I have said all along, Team Penske is where I want to be and I’m thrilled to continue with the organization well into the future. I have a lot of years left in the sport and I truly feel our best years are ahead of us.”

Keselowski first came on board at Team Penske toward the end of the 2009 MENCS season and Wolfe joined him prior to the 2010 NXS campaign. The two promptly won the 2010 NXS Drivers’ championship with six wins and an NXS-record 26 top-five finishes. Wolfe then joined Keselowski on the No. 2 Ford in Cup and the duo earned their first win at Kansas Speedway in just their 13th start together. In their seven-plus MENCS seasons, Keselowski and Wolfe have become one of the premier driver/crew chief combinations in the sport and have earned six trips to the NASCAR playoffs.

“There is no one I want helping make my race cars go fast more than Paul Wolfe,” Keselowski said. “We have a lot of continuity between the two of us, and really the entire No. 2 Ford team, which is so important in today’s NASCAR. With partners like Miller Lite, Alliance Truck Parts, Wurth, Autotrader, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, Discount Tire and Ford Performance in our corner, I feel like we have the strongest overall program in the sport.”

Keselowski has recorded 51 wins while driving for Team Penske, making him the second-winningest driver in team history. He is just eight victories away from tying Team Penske Hall of Famer, Mark Donohue, for the top honor.

“Mark Donohue is the driver that Roger was able to build this team around over 50 years ago, a man who won our first NASCAR Cup Series race and our first Indianapolis 500,” Keselowski said. “I’m truly blessed to be close to tying his record for wins with Team Penske and this extension will allow me to place my name beside such a legendary driver.”

Keselowski continues to climb the ranks of NASCAR’s all-timers. His 23 career MENCS victories tie him with Ricky Rudd for 33rd on the career wins list. With 35 career NXS victories, he ranks fifth in all-time series wins. Keselowski also is one of only four drivers to win both an MENCS championship and NXS title in their career.

While the No. 12 Ford has made a handful of starts in the Cup Series over the last few years, Team Penske has not competed as a fulltime, three-car team since the 2010 season with Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. Despite the fact that the team has only run two fulltime cars since the 2011 season, Team Penske has produced 40 MENCS victories, along with the 2012 NASCAR Cup title, and the 2015 Daytona 500 championship.

Details surrounding the No. 12 team, including sponsorship and crew chief, will be announced soon.

Team Penske celebrated its 50thanniversary season in 2016. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 450 major race wins, over 520 pole positions and 29 National Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. In its storied history, the team also has earned a record 16 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 championships, one Formula One win and overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

In addition to competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series, Penske also races in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.


| , RacinToday.com Thursday, July 27 2017
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