Blaney to make 200th Cup start at Daytona road course event

With a new season of NASCAR competition underway, Ryan Blaney is set to achieve a milestone start in his sixth full-time season in the Cup Series. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s event at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, the driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang for Team Penske will reach 200 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native from Hartford Township, Ohio, Blaney made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Kansas Speedway in May 2014. By then, he was campaigning in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Brad Keselowski Racing and had won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race the previous year at Kentucky Speedway for Team Penske. Driving Penske’s No. 12 Ford Fusion, Blaney started 21st and finished 27th in his Cup debut. He made his second Cup start at Talladega Superspeedway five months later, where he finished 22nd.

The following season, Blaney competed on a part-time basis in the Cup Series for the Wood Brothers Racing. He entered in 16 of the 36-race schedule and went on to achieve a season-best fourth-place result at Talladega in May and a total of two top-10 results.

In 2016, the Wood Brothers returned as a full-time Cup Series team with Blaney named as the team’s full-time driver of the iconic No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford and a Rookie-of-the-Year candidate. In his first full-time season, Blaney achieved four top-five results, a season-best result of fourth place (twice), nine top-10 results and a final points result of 20th. He, however, fell short in achieving the Rookie-of-the-Year title to Chase Elliott.

Blaney kickstarted the 2017 Cup season on a strong note by finishing in second place in the Daytona 500 behind Kurt Busch. Nine races and three top-10 results later, he achieved his first pole position in the Cup circuit at Kansas Speedway in May. During the main event, he led 83 laps, won the second stage and was in position to achieve his first win until settling in fourth place following a late battle with eventual winner Martin Truex Jr.

Three races later, Blaney overtook Kyle Busch with 10 laps remaining and held off a fast-charging Kevin Harvick to achieve his first Cup triumph at Pocono Raceway in June and in his 68th career start. By then, Blaney became the third first-time winner of the 2017 season and he recorded the 99th Cup victory for the Wood Brothers Racing. He also guaranteed himself a spot in the Playoffs by virtue of his win.

Blaney went on to achieve four additional top-10 results before entering the Playoffs as a championship contender. He finished in 11th, ninth and 23rd during the Round of 16 of the Playoffs, which were enough for him to advance to the Round of 12. Finishing eighth, 18th and third in the following round were enough for him to advance to the Round of 8. He went on to finish eighth, sixth and 17th in the following round, but they were not enough for him to advance to the Championship Round and with an opportunity to campaign for his first Cup title. Nonetheless, he wrapped up his sophomore Cup season with a victory, two poles, four top-five results, 14 top-10 results and a final result of ninth place in the standings.

For the 2018 season, Blaney joined Team Penske as the team’s third full-time driver in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard took over the Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 Ford. Blaney started the 2018 season on a strong note after finishing in fourth place in the Clash and winning the first duel qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. During the season-opening Daytona 500, Blaney led a race-high 118 laps and was in position of winning his first 500 title until he was involved in a late multi-car incident. He was able to recover and finish in seventh place.

Throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, Blaney and his No. 12 Team Penske Ford team achieved a best result of second place at Kentucky Speedway in July, five top-five results, 12 top-10 results and a pole, which were enough to qualify for the Playoffs based on points. By then, he surpassed 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

During the first two races in the Round of 16 in the Playoffs, Blaney finished fifth and 19th. Then during in the inaugural event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, he dodged an incident involving Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. on the final corner of the final lap to achieve his first elusive victory of the season and his second Cup career win. The victory allowed him to advance to the Round of 12.

In the Round of 12, however, Blaney recorded results of 11th, 29th and seventh, which were not enough for him to advance to the Round of 8. When the 2018 Cup season concluded, he achieved a victory, three poles, eight top-five results, 16 top-10 results and a 10th-place result in the final standings.

In 2019, Blaney recorded his first victory of the season at Talladega in October after edging Ryan Newman at the finish line by 0.007 seconds. He was able to race his way through to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs, but fell short in making the Championship Round. Nonetheless, his fourth season in the Cup Series produced strong results that included 11 top-five results, 18 top-10 results, a pole and a career-best seventh-place result in the standings.

Following five productive seasons with crew chief Jeremy Bullins, Blaney was paired with veteran crew chief Todd Gordon for the 2020 Cup Series seasons. Together, the duo recorded a strong runner-up result in the season-opening Daytona 500. Blaney would lead the regular-season standings for two weeks before a 37th-place result at Phoenix Raceway in March dropped them to sixth in the standings.

Thirteen races into the 2020 season, Blaney captured his first victory of the season at Talladega in June after edging Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the line by 0.007 seconds.

Throughout the 2020 regular-season stretch, Blaney and his No. 12 Team Penske Ford team achieved eight top-five results and 11 top-10 results along with the Talladega victory, as Blaney made the Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. His Playoff run, however, came to an early end after finishing 24th, 19th and 13th in the Round of 16, which were not enough for him to advance to the Round of 12. He went on to finish in the top 10 in six of the final seven races of the season and conclude the 2020 season in ninth place in the standings.

This season, Blaney is coming off a 13th-place result in the Busch Clash, where he spun following contact with Chase Elliott while leading entering the final corner, and a 30th-place result in the Daytona 500, where he was involved in an early multi-car accident.

Through 199 previous starts in the Cup Series, Blaney has achieved four career victories, six poles, 38 top-five results, 76 top-10 results, over 2,000 laps led and an overall average result of 16.6.

Catch Blaney’s 200th Cup career start at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course on Sunday, February 21, with the event to occur at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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