On Wednesday morning, Team Penske announced that it will be adding a third car to it’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fleet, and Ryan Blaney will be behind the wheel.
The High Point, NC native has spent the last few years on loan racing for Wood Brothers Racing, a team that shares a technical alliance with Penske. But at the conclusion of the 2017 season, Blaney will say goodbye to the No.21 and hello to the No.12.
“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney in a Team Penske press release. “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.
It had been rumored for quite sometime that Blaney would be making the jump back to compete for Roger Penske. “The Captain” as most people in the racing industry know him, has made subtle comments for quite sometime now that he’d been trying figure things out to get Blaney a team ready for 2018.
“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 in a Team Penske press release. “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.”
Paul Menard, the current driver of the No.27 Richard Childress Racing Chevy in the Cup Series, will fill Blaney’s void at Wood Brothers Racing. Menard will compete full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series behind the wheel of the No.21 machine, with sponsorship from Menards for 22 races.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in NASCAR and as a Cup Series driver, but 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,” said Menard in a Wood Brothers Racing press release. “I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do.”
Plans to fill or not to fill his spot at Richard Childress Racing for the 2018 season have not yet been announced.
Blaney and Menard join an ever-growing list of drivers who have now publicly announced their plans for the 2018 season. Erik Jones was quickly announced as the replacement driver for Matt Kenseth, who broke the news of his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing earlier in July. Last week it was publicized that Alex Bowman will be taking over the No.88 Hendrick Motorsports ride after Dale Earnhardt Jr’s retirement at the end of the 2017 season. Brad Keselowski also re-upped his contract with Team Penske on Tuesday of this week.
The dominoes continue to fall.