18 year-old rookie driver Ryan Blaney delivered Brad KeselowskiRacing’s (BKR) first victory Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. Blaney piloted the No. 29 Cooper Standard RAM in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 presented by Hy-Vee.
The weekend started strong for the team as they were fastest in the first practice on Friday evening. Blaney qualified the Cooper Standard RAM in the second position to start Saturday night’s race.
Blaney slid back to fourth place when the first yellow flag flew on lap 20. The team declined to pit in favor of track position, which would consistently prove to be a key strategic move throughout the night. The second yellow flag of the night fell shortly after on lap 39 for a three car incident in turn four. Crew chief Doug Randolph called the Cooper Standard RAM into the pits for a four tire stop and track bar adjustment. With trouble on the right front tire during the pit stop, Blaney lined up in 14th position on the lap 40 restart. He was on a mission though and drove to sixth place when the next yellow flew on lap 54 for a spin in turn two. Randolph kept the Cooper Standard RAM on track in favor of position, and Blaney lined up in the second position for the lap 59 restart. Randolph continued to keep the No. 29 BKR RAM on the track for cautions on laps 68 and 74 maintaining second place behind Parker Kligerman in the No. 7 Red Horse Racing machine.
On lap 95, Randolph made the winning call of the night pitting as the only truck on the lead lap for four fresh tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. The team gave up valuable track position, which led to a 14th place restart. A long green flag run ensued, and Ryan Blaney took the lead for the first time in his career on lap 155. A timely yellow flag fell on lap 162 allowed race engineer Tom Akerman’s fuel mileage calculations to pay off for the pit strategy with a quick four tire change and enough fuel to make it to the finish.
Blaney continued to control the field during the lap 177 restart and had no intentions of looking back. The cautions continued to fall on laps 179 and 188. The Cooper Standard RAM then held off hard charging challenges from Johnny Sauter and Ty Dillon in the late stages of the race. A final restart on lap 197 was not a problem for the rookie driver as he cruised to Iowa Speedway’s victory lane for the first time in just his third career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start becoming the youngest driver to win on the circuit.
“This is pretty incredible. I’ve got to thank Cooper Standard, Reese Towpower, Draw-Tite, and Brad Keselowski for giving me this opportunity,” said Blaney. “Doug (Randolph) made some great calls there at the end. We had a really good Cooper Standard RAM for about five laps and then we’d kind of even out. I knew if I could just have the lead through one and two we would have had them. It’s just unbelievable. I’m so thankful for the chance I’ve been given here with BKR, and hopefully we get a few more.”
Randolph joined Blaney in the celebration saying “Man, it was just a pleasure to watch him drive tonight. He was on it. The Cooper Standard RAM was solid all night. The guys on pit road did a great job. I feel great for Ryan and his family. My first crew chief gig was with his dad (Dave Blaney) so I feel really close to the family, and it’s exciting to see this.”
Ryan Blaney is back behind the wheel of the Cooper Standard BKR entry on Friday night, September 21st, at Kentucky Speedway for the Kentucky 201. Race coverage begins at 7:00 P.M. EDT on the SPEED Channel. Radio coverage can be found on MRN and Sirius XM Channel 90 beginning at 7:45 P.M. EDT.