The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Ryan Blaney by S.D. Grady -- Monday December 9, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Ryan Blaney

S.D. Grady · Monday December 9, 2013


2013 Ride: No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing
2013 Primary Sponsors: Cooper Standard
2013 Owner: Brad Keselowski Racing
2013 Crew Chief: Doug Randolph

Stats: 6th in points, 22 starts, 8 Top 5s, 13 Top 10s, 1 DNF, 2 poles (Kentucky and Homestead), 154 laps led.
Best Finish: Winner – Pocono Mountains 125.
Ryan Blaney took a Ford to victory lane in the truck series for the first time in four years after he beat out Miguel Paludo on the second attempt at a green-white-checker restart. The No. 29 dominated throughout the day.
Average Start: 11.2.
Average Finish: 11.5.

Ryan Blaney (P.S. – Being a minor has nothing to do with ability!)

2013 Team Driver Ranking: 1st out of 2.
2013 Team Owners Ranking: 2nd out of 2.

The teammate to Blaney’s truck, the No. 19, was piloted by a collection of drivers over the season, including team owner Brad Keselowski, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano and Ryan’s father Dave Blaney for the one Eldora race.

High Point: Won Rookie of the Year for Camping World Truck Series. He is the youngest driver to ever accept the award at nineteen years of age. And this was certainly a year where Blaney had serious competition for the title. Other rookies in the class were Darrell Wallace Jr., Jeb Burton, German Quiroga Jr., Brennan Newberry and Ryan Truex.

Low Point: Fate always has a way of keeping it real. The race after his win at Pocono, Blaney took the green flag at Michigan. On the first lap in Turn 2, he tangled with fellow rookie Darrel Wallace, Jr. and ended up smashing into the inside wall. The No. 29 never returned to the track. It marked the only DNF of his season.

Summary: Great expectations were held for Ryan Blaney entering into the 2013 season. After all, he won in only his third appearance in the truck series at Iowa Speedway in 2012, finishing out his partial season with a second at Phoenix. And amazingly the son of retired Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney did not disappoint.

Starting with a solid run at intimidating Daytona (P16), he continued to keep the No. 29 truck up front and competitive throughout the season, rarely encountering problems of his own making—truly a mark of excellence in the Penske developmental driver. He failed to finish on the lead lap a mere four times for the entire year. Then again, as mentioned above, the 2013 rookie class in the truck series was something of an exception. While Blaney enjoys piloting quality equipment fielded by Keselowski, his competition have trucks provided by Kyle Busch Racing and the solid Turner Scott team. In no way can it be said monkeys may have had anything to do with Blaney’s success this year.

He participated in the fun dirt race at Eldora Speedway, running next to his dad, and finished the night in 15th. He also drove three races in the Nationwide series for Penske Racing in the No. 22. It can be construed that with consistent improvement, Blaney can look forward to a seat in the Cup Series in a few years time.

Besides the surprising maturity demonstrated behind the wheel, Blaney has been well groomed to take on the scarier tasks of superstardom in the NASCAR world, providing respectful and pleasant interviews.

2014 Outlook: Ryan Blaney and the No. 29 Brad Keselowski team are all returning to the truck series for 2014, complete with the sponsorship from Cooper Standard and Doug Randolph as crew chief. Considering the success found in 2013, it should be expected that Blaney will be shooting for a championship in ’14. And he just might do it.

2013 Grade: A+.

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