The silly season moves continued Wednesday as Ryan Blaney was announced as the fulltime Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver for a third Ford at Penske Racing, while Paul Menard was named as Blaney’s replacement at Wood Brothers Racing.
Blaney is under contract with Penske and was farmed out to the Wood Brothers. With Wednesday’s announcement Penske said it will return to a three-car operation in 2018 with the 23-year-old Blaney, who also signed a multi-year contract extension with the tea. He will race the No. 12 Ford Fusion, beginning with the annual non-points “Clash” event at Daytona International Speedway in February.
“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,” said Roger Penske. “We have been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team. The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”
Blaney made his MENCS debut in 2014 for Team Penske and has driven for Wood Brothers Racing full-time the last two seasons. One of NASCAR’s rising “young guns,” Blaney earned his first-career Cup Series win earlier this season at Pocono Raceway, giving the Wood Brothers team its first MENCS win since the 2011 season. Blaney also scored his first Cup Series pole this season at Kansas Speedway. He finished second in the 2016 MENCS Rookie of the Year standings.
Blaney has been a part of Team Penske since 2012 and has earned five NASCAR Xfinity Series wins for the team and was part of the No. 22 team’s three-straight NXS Owners’ Championships from 2013-2015.
“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney, a third-generation driver from High Point, NC. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. 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 (Penske), Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me. I’m thrilled knowing that Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul (Menard) will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”
Earlier this season, Team Penske announced that it signed Joey Logano to a multi-year contract through the 2022 season and beyond. Tuesday the team announced it has come to terms with Brad Keselowski for a multi-year agreement.
While the No. 12 Ford Fusion has made a handful of starts in the Cup Series over the last few years, Team Penske has not competed as a full-time, three-car team since the 2010 season with Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. Despite the fact that the team has only run two full-time cars since the 2011 season, Team Penske has produced 40 MENCS victories, along with the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series title, and the 2015 Daytona 500 Championship.
The team said details surrounding the No. 12 team, including sponsorship and crew chief, will be announced in the near future.
Menard, 36, will move to the Wood Brothers after a seven-year run in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 Chevrolet. Menard scored his lone premier series win (2011, Indianapolis) and two of his three career Xfinity victories.
Menard has made 383 NASCAR premier series starts since his debut in 2003. He’s currently 23rd in the series standings.
“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,” Menard said. “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 (Blaney) 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.”
Menards will sponsor the No. 21 Ford for 22 Monster Energy Series races. Additional sponsorship, including plans for long-time partner Motorcraft/Quick Lane, will be announced at a later date, the team announced in a press release.
Menard also will run a handful of Xfinity Series races for Team Penske in 2018.
Wood Brothers Racing, which has had the likes of David Pearson, Curtis Turner, Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker pilot the iconic No. 21, currently sits at 99 career wins in the Monster Energy Series.
“It’s fantastic to have the ability to continue to race in the highest level of motorsports full-time and something we look forward to doing with Paul for years to come,” Eddie Wood said in a team release. “I know this will allow us to continue to perform as an organization and will give Paul a great opportunity to go out there and compete for wins.”