A few years ago Ryan Blaney was thought of as a can’t miss superstar in the NASCAR Cup Series. And certainly, the High Point, NC native has accomplished some things that many others only wish they could have. But now at the age of 27, the time has come to start asking when, or even if, he will reach the status of multiple race winner and regular championship contender.
Blaney is the son of former Sprint Car racing star and NASCAR regular Dave Blaney which perhaps led to exalted expectations when he entered the sport. And further, Blaney himself offered evidence of future greatness as he worked his way up through the ranks by winning NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races prior to reaching the top level. There was every reason to believe this star was on the rise when, at age 22, he moved into a full-time Cuper Series ride with Wood Brothers Racing in 2016.
Blaney then continued to give rise to the belief that a superstar was in the making as he wheeled the famed No. 21 Ford into victory lane at Pocono Raceway in June of 2017. And with that team serving as somewhat of a satellite operation for powerful Team Penske, the way was laid for the young pilot to move over to the organization run under the watchful eye of motorsports legend Roger Penske.
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Since moving to Team Penske in 2018, Blaney has experienced success. In each of the past three seasons, he has achieved one victory and earned a place in the NASCAR Playoffs. Two of his wins during that time have come at Talladega Super Speedway with the other being scored in the inaugural event on the Charlotte Roval after front runners Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex, Jr. eliminated each other from contention in the final turn on the last lap.
While Blaney was taking home three trophies, teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were reeling off a total of 18 race wins(10 by Keselowski & 8 by Logano) in those same three seasons Blaney has been with Team Penske. Keselowski has made it to the Championship 4 once during that time period with Logano earning two chances at a title in the season finale and actually winning NASCAR’s biggest prize in 2018.
This, however, might be the year for Blaney to emerge into that role of multiple race winner and championship contender. It was at essentially the same age when his two teammates made their greatest strides.
Please also consider reading “Here’s why NASCAR needs Bubba Wallace to succeed“
Keselowski won the NASCAR Cup Series championship as well as grabbing a career high five checkered flags in 2012 in his third year with the Penske organization at the age of 28. While Logano had had more prolific seasons in terms of winning races, he earned his first series title in 2018 at the age of 28 in his sixth campaign with the Mooresville, NC-based team.
Blaney’s high water mark in the final series standings so far has been a seventh-place effort in 2019.
In Formula 1, drivers are often compared against their teammates as a measure of success or failure. While it would be grossly inaccurate to label Ryan Blaney’s NASCAR career as a failure, he has underperformed compared to his teammates in his first three seasons. That said, however, he is just now reaching the age at which those two drivers achieved their greatest success to date. Based on that information, the conclusion may be fairly reached that it is time for this driver to start winning multiple races each season and to step into the role of serious threat to win a title.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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