Penske Tabs Ryan Blaney For 2018 As They Expand Operation

Incase you missed it this morning, Team Penske announced that they were expanding their operation in 2018 moving to a three-car team with young driver Ryan Blaney coming over to drive the No. 12 Ford Fusion. The 23-year-old Blaney is currently in his third season in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driving for the Wood Brothers in their historic No. 21 car. In a corresponding move, Paul Menard will take over the 21 car in 2018 as he departs from Richard Childress Racing.

For anyone who follows the sport closely, this comes as no surprise. Ryan Blaney scored his first win at Pocono last month and is really at the fore-front amongst the next big stars for the sport. The charismatic youngster is groomed and ready to challenge for championships, and through a technical alliance between the Wood Brothers and Penske, the move for 2018 makes all the sense in the world. Team owner Roger Penske even hinted that he would love to have Blaney driving for Penske in the future after he scored his first victory, that now becomes a reality next season.

“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,” Roger Penske said in the press release this morning. Blaney has driven in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series for Team Penske and has scored all five of his victories in the series running a Ford for the team. Being a satellite teammate with fellow drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano should also make for a seamless transition to the three-car operation next year.

“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career. 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 excited about the future.” Blaney said this morning following the announcement he would be making the move to Penske.

Team Penske also announced yesterday a multi-year contract extension with former Cup Series Champion and driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion Brad Keselowski. The team also extended the contract of Joey Logano earlier this season, so the three drivers will be working together and collecting wins for Team Penske for the foreseeable future.

The move for Blaney to Penske and driving the No. 12 also opened up a spot for the Wood Brothers and their one-car operation which we found out immediately will be filled by veteran Paul Menard. The 36-year-old Menard will assume duties of the No. 21 car after spending seven seasons with RCR, and along with running part-time in the Xfinity Series for Penske, will bring with him sponsorship from Menards Inc. to both the No. 21 car and the No. 22 car for Lognao and Penske we have since learned.

The veteran Menard will benefit not only from the satellite alliance between Penske and The Wood Brothers, but will also benefit from being the sole driver for a one-car team for which all of the effort and work can be put into as opposed to the three-car operation he has been working with driving the No. 27 Chevrolet for Richard Childress. Menard scored the only victory of his career in the 2011 Brickyard 400, and will take over an operation that is one win away from the magical number of 100, one he will no doubt look to capture will driving for the Wood Brothers.

“To get the chance to drive the iconic No. 21 for the Wood Brothers is the coolest thing I’ve ever got a chance to do. I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.” Menard said this morning after the move was announced.

Ryan Blaney is just starting to hit his stride at NASCAR’s highest level of competition and the move to join Team Penske for 2018 is one that both sides will reap the rewards of and could even lead to championships down the road.

Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank

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