Competing in his eighth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Ryan Blaney is poised to achieve a milestone start. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s Playoff event at Texas Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang will achieve career start No. 300 in NASCAR’s premier series.
A native of High Point, North Carolina, Blaney made his inaugural presence in NASCAR’s premier series at Kansas Speedway in May 2014. By then, he was competing in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Truck Series with Brad Keselowski Racing and had accumulated two victories in the series along with his first Xfinity Series win at Kentucky Speedway in September 2013. Driving the No. 12 Ford Fusion for Team Penske, Blaney started 21st and finished 27th in his Cup debut. He then made his second series start at Talladega Superspeedway five months later, where he finished 22nd despite starting fourth.
The following season, Blaney competed on a part-time basis in the Cup Series for the Wood Brothers Racing, where he piloted the iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion. He entered in 16 of the 36-race schedule and went on to achieve a season-best fourth-place result at Talladega Superspeedway in May along with a total of two top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 25.3.
In 2016, Blaney was named a full-time Cup Series competitor in the No. 21 Ford Fusion for Wood Brothers Racing, which embarked on its first full-time campaign since 2008. Commencing his rookie campaign with a 19th-place result in the 58th running of the Daytona 500, Blaney’s highlights throughout the regular-season stretch included a fourth-place run at Michigan International Speedway in August, a fifth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in May and a sixth-place result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.
Despite notching seven top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, he did not qualify for the 2016 Cup Playoffs. He rallied by finishing fourth at Chicagoland Speedway in September after utilizing a late pit strategy to remain out on the track on old tires for a two-lap shootout and inherit the lead until being overtaken by Martin Truex Jr. during the restart.
Finishing no higher than eighth for the final nine scheduled events, Blaney capped off his first full-time Cup season in 20th place in the final standings and in the runner-up spot behind Chase Elliott for the rookie title on the strength of three top-five results, nine top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 18.5.
Remaining with the Wood Brothers organization for the 2017 Cup season, Blaney kickstarted the season on a strong note by finishing in second place in the 59th running of the Daytona 500 behind Kurt Busch. He then endured an up-and-down voyage through the following 12 events by posting three results in the top 10. The highlight during this stretch was achieving his first Cup career pole at Kansas in May, where he went on to lead 83 of 267 laps and battle Truex for the victory until settling in fourth place in the final running order.
Then at Pocono Raceway in June, Blaney withstood a fierce duel against Kyle Busch to assume the lead with 10 laps remaining before holding off Kevin Harvick to score his first Cup career victory in his 68th career start. By then, Blaney recorded the 99th Cup victory for Wood Brothers Racing as he also became the third first-time winner of the 2017 season and the 189th different competitor to win in NASCAR’s premier series.
After achieving an additional four top-10 results for the remaining 12 scheduled events, where he surpassed 100 Cup career starts, the Pocono victory guaranteed Blaney and the No. 21 Wood Brothers team a spot in the Cup Playoffs for the first time. With four top-11 runs throughout the Rounds of 16 and 12, Blaney transferred all the way to the Round of 8, where his title hopes came to an end with respective finishes of eighth, sixth and 17th. With a 29th-place result at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, Blaney concluded his sophomore Cup campaign in ninth place in the final standings. Overall, he achieved a victory, his first two poles, four top-five results, 14 top-10 results, 301 laps led and an average-finishing result of 17.3 throughout the 36-race schedule.
In July 2017, Blaney was announced to be rejoining Team Penske to pilot the No. 12 Ford Fusion while Paul Menard would be taking over the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Fusion for the 2018 Cup season. Blaney started the 2018 season with early momentum after winning the first of two Daytona Duel events at Daytona in February, which awarded him the third-place starting spot for the 60th running of the Daytona 500. During the 500, he led a race-high 118 laps and was in contention until he was involved in a late multi-car wreck, an incident that relegated him back to seventh place in the final scoreboard.
Throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, Blaney and the No. 12 team achieved five top-five results and 12 top-10 results with their highest on-track result occurring at Kentucky Speedway in July, as they made the 2018 Cup Playoffs. By then, he surpassed 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series. During the first two events in the Round of 16, Blaney finished fifth and 19th, respectively. Then during the inaugural Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course event, he notched his first elusive victory of the season and transferred to the Round of 12 after dodging a final lap incident involving Truex and Jimmie Johnson.
During the Round of 12, however, Blaney’s title hopes evaporated with respective finishes of 11th, 29th, and seventh. Managing a strong runner-up result at Texas Motor Speedway in November and through the final four scheduled events, he capped off the season in 10th place in the final standings. By then, Blaney doubled his top-five results (eight), recorded two additional top-10 results (16 total) and a pole (three total), increased his laps led (660 total) and improved his average-finishing result (14.8) from his previous Cup season.
For the 2019 Cup season, Blaney clinched a spot in the Playoffs for a third consecutive season on the strength of seven top-five results and 12 top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch. After notching two top-10 results during the Round of 16 and transferring to the Round of 12, he captured his first Cup victory of the season at Talladega in October after edging Ryan Newman at the finish line by 0.007 seconds and during a two-lap shootout. With an automatic pass to the Round of 8, Blaney finished no lower than eighth throughout the round but fell short of transferring to the Championship 4 finale by two spots in the Playoff standings. With an 11th-place finish at Homestead, he capped off his junior Cup season with 11 top-five results, 18 top-10 results, 422 laps led and an average-finishing result of 13.7.
In 2020, Blaney commenced the season by being edged by Denny Hamlin by 0.014 seconds in the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 amid a harrowing final lap accident involving Newman, whom Blaney bumped and sent into the outside wall and upside-down while battling for the victory. He rallied 12 races later by edging Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 0.007 seconds to win at Talladega for a second consecutive time and for his fourth career victory in NASCAR’s premier series. The Talladega victory along with a total of eight top-five results and 11 top-10 results ensured Blaney a spot for the 2020 Cup Playoffs.
His title hopes, however, came to an early end after finishing no higher than 13th during the Round of 16. Nonetheless, he capped off the season with momentum and with six top-10 results during the final seven scheduled events before finishing in ninth place in the final standings. While he tied his accumulated top-five results (11) and led more laps than his previous season (668 total), he earned one less top-10 result from his previous season (17) and with an average-finishing result of 13.8.
The 2021 season was a career year for Blaney, who finished no higher than fifth during the first five scheduled events before notching his first victory of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March after overtaking Kyle Larson under the final 10 laps. By then, he surpassed 200 Cup career starts. He proceeded to finish in the top 10 nine times during the following 18 events before capping off the regular-season stretch with back-to-back victories at Michigan and Daytona in August. Making his fifth consecutive appearance in the Cup Playoffs, Blaney transferred all the way from the Round of 16 to 8 on the strength of four top-10 results. He, however, did not transfer to the Championship 4 round due to respective finishes of sixth, 37th and 11th during the Round of 8 as he went on to finish fourth in the finale at Phoenix Raceway in November and seventh in the final standings. In addition to achieving his first multi-victory season, Blaney also recorded a total of 11 top-five results for a third consecutive season, a career-high 20 top-10 results and a career-best average-finishing result of 11.9.
This past season, Blaney endured his first winless season in the Cup circuit for the first time since 2016 despite achieving three poles, eight top-five and 12 top-10 results throughout the regular season. Mired within the results was his first All-Star victory at Texas in May, where he fended off Hamlin during a two-lap shootout. With a 15th-place result in the regular-season finale at Daytona in August, Blaney claimed the final transfer spot to the 2022 Cup Playoffs by a mere margin over Truex. Despite transferring all the way from the Round of 16 to 8 with three top-10 results, he missed the cutline to make the Championship 4 despite finishing as high as third during the Round of 8.
Blaney ended up finishing in second place in the finale at Phoenix, which marked his second runner-up result of the season, and in seventh place in the final standings. Despite recording three less top-10 results compared to his previous season (17 total) and with an average-finishing result of 13.6, he achieved a career-high 12 top-five runs.
Blaney commenced the 2023 Cup season with an eighth-place finish in the 65th running of the Daytona 500 despite being in two separate multi-car wrecks. He then proceeded to notch six additional top-10 results during the following 12 events, including two runner-up results. At Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 in May, Blaney made a triumphant return to Victory Lane after leading a race-high 163 of 400 laps and beating William Byron by six-tenths of a second to notch his eighth career victory in NASCAR’s premier series and first since winning at Daytona in August 2021. With a guaranteed spot for the 2023 Cup Playoffs based on his Charlotte win, Blaney secured four additional top-10 results during the remaining 12 regular-season events before the Playoffs commenced. Despite recording respective finishes of ninth, 12th and 22nd during the Round of 16, Blaney was one of 12 competitors to advance into the Round of 12. He is currently ranked in 11th place in the Playoff standings with 3,008 points as he prepares to tackle the Round of 12 and continue his quest to contend for his first Cup Series championship.
Through 299 previous Cup starts, Blaney has achieved eight victories, nine poles, 65 top-five results, 126 top-10 results, 3,489 laps led and an average-finishing result of 15.5.
Blaney is scheduled to make his 300th Cup Series career start at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 24, with the event’s coverage to occur at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.