Ryan Blaney, not Chase Elliott, will be NASCAR’s breakout star in 2016

Ryan Blaney will compete in his second Daytona 500 after qualifying on time with the Wood Brothers. Image courtesy of @NASCAR.
Image courtesy of @NASCAR.

Image courtesy of @NASCAR.

Joey Logano may have paced the field on Sunday, but he wasn’t the only Ford driver making a statement. The biggest exclamation point for Team Penske at Kansas may have come from a driver who isn’t currently in its garage.

Ryan Blaney, in just his 15th Sprint Cup Series start, finished seventh at Kansas. That comes after finishing fourth earlier this season at Talladega. Suffice to say, Blaney is proving in a part-time ride that he’s ready for the big stage.

This is all for Wood Brothers Racing, not Penske. Sure, the partnership is there, but not being at the track every week is far from ideal for a young driver.

He’ll get that next year with both Penske and the Wood Brothers. Roger Penske spoke about that exact plan earlier this year, hoping to get him in a Penske Ford next season.

“I’d hope there can be an extension,” the team owner said. “We’re going to run him in about 18 races, so if we can get sponsorship for him, that gives him a chance to take a look at extending that through a full season next year. That would be our goal.

“We’ve got the technology and the ability to build the right pieces for [Wood Brothers Racing]. It’s like a brother-in-law.”

There’s no question that Penske is one of the best teams in NASCAR currently. With Joey Logano sweeping the Contender Round thus far, Blaney wasn’t far behind at Kansas with his seventh-place finish. Both Logano and Brad Keselowski are serious contenders for the Sprint Cup championship.

Getting a chance to step into a third Penske car and having engineering from the team for Wood Brothers’ machines, Blaney will finally get his opportunity to shine. After all, we can only imagine what he would have done had qualifying not been rained out multiple times this year.

Heading to the track with a sense of ease that his team will make the race, Blaney can focus on racing. Running a full-time season split between two solid teams, Blaney can focus on racing. And when Blaney focuses on racing, he thrives.

While Chase Elliott is receiving all the hype, Blaney has the experience and solid backing. No, Penske is not Hendrick Motorsports in terms of resources, but the team knows how to compete and pull out wins. It’s also a great development garage for young talent, as Logano and Keselowski have proved.

Expect a huge leap from Blaney in the 2016 season, with a win not out of the question. Much like Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson in 2014, the 2016 Rookie of the Year battle will be riveting—with the underdog coming out on top.

Blaney is coming, and it’s time for the rest of the NASCAR world to take notice.


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