Wednesday, Jul 06

MENCS: Wood Brothers Racing 2016 Review, 2017 Preview

Wood Brothers Racing returned to full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action in 2016 with young driver Ryan Blaney. Wood Brothers Racing, one of the longest running racing teams in the world today, returned to full-time competition for the first time since 2006 with veteran racer Ken Schrader.

Despite it being Blaney’s first full season in the premier series, he did not come into it cold turkey. The North Carolina native, son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racer Dave Blaney, made 16 starts in 2015 with Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney had one top five and two top 10 finishes when the season concluded.

Blaney started the year at Daytona International Speedway scoring a 19th-place finish. The young driver, carrying sponsor Motorcraft / Quick Lane on the side of the car, started the Daytona 500 in the seventh starting spot. The next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Blaney started in 23rd and finished the day in 25th at the 1.5-mile oval.

The next two races would end up being a turnaround for the single-car operation and Blaney. He would score a pair of top 10 finishes in race three and four at Las Vegas and Phoenix. Blaney would sit 12th in points as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headed into the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway.

Blaney would start the Auto Club 400 in the 14th starting position as they went into the two-mile oval riding a wave of momentum. That momentum, however, wouldn’t continue as his day would be cut short on lap 195 due to a crash with 10 laps remaining. Blaney would capture a 35th at the California oval.

The stretch of bad luck continued over the next three of the four races as he would only score one top 15 finish. His best finish over the stretch of these races would be an 11th at Bristol Motor Speedway. Blaney would go on another top 10 streak over the next three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega, Kansas and Dover. The 23-year old’s best run during this stretch would be a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway after starting the night in seventh. After a 20th at Charlotte, Blaney would find himself back into the top 10 at Pocono Raceway.

The No. 21 Wood Brother’s Racing team finished out the first half of the season with a pair of top 20’s over the next three races. After the Coke Zero 400, as the series went into Kentucky Speedway to start the second-half, Blaney sat 15th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver standings.

The second-half of the season was a very shaky one for Blaney as they would finish out the regular season with one top five and one top 10 finish over the next eight races. After Richmond, which signifies the end of the regular season as the Chase begins, Blaney would sit 21st in points and would not be eligible for NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.

The team remained on a slippery slope in the final 10 events of the season all the way to Homestead-Miami Speedway. Blaney and the No. 21 team scored a fourth and an eighth-place finish at Chicago and Phoenix. He would finish out the year scoring four top 15’s and four finishes outside the top 19. He would sit 20th in the final driver standings at seasons end.

When the season completed, Blaney captured three top five and nine top 10 finishes. He ended the season with an average finish of 18.5 and completed 95.2 percent of the laps ran in 2016. The team also finished the year with only two DNF’s.

Blaney will be joining Wood Brothers Racing for a full-time slate once again in 2017. They will also be leasing a Charter that will guarantee them a starting spot in every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in the upcoming season. That Charter is from the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Team.

Wood Brothers Racing will have Motorcraft / Quick Lane on the car for about 12 races all throughout 2017, per Jayski. Other sponsors on the No. 21 Ford led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins will also include SKF and possible others that have yet to be announced.

Brett Winningham

Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.

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