Ryan Blaney spent his first two Cup Series seasons with Wood Brothers Racing in the #21 Ford, essentially “waiting in the wings” until he got the call from Roger Penske. This year, Blaney will pilot the #12 Ford for Team Penske, as the organization has to decided to expand back to a three-car operation for the first time since the 2010 season. Blaney will join his new veteran teammates, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, this year while Paul Menard will take his place over at the Wood Brothers shop. One thing to keep an eye on in the upcoming 2018 season is how well the Penske group handles being a three-car organization again; we saw how Roush-Fenway Racing bolstered its Cup program by scaling back to just two cars (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne)…will we see the opposite effect on Penske?
Cup Series History
As mentioned before, Ryan Blaney has two full years under his belt in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but you kind of have to take those results with a grain of salt. He drove for Wood Brother Racing, who is by no means a top tier team–and that’s a big reason why Ryan’s average finishes in those first two years were 18.5 and 17.2. With that being said, Blaney was able to get to victory lane last season (at Pocono) and he did post 14 top 10s over the course of the 36-race schedule. Now that he’s with Penske and has a little bit more reliability in his equipment, it could be a very good year for him.
Predictions for the Upcoming Season
A lot of Ryan Blaney’s success is going to depend on how well Team Penske does with the expansion to three cars. If they hit it in stride and have race cars as strong as they were last year, we should be looking for a career year out of Ryan–and possibly even a breakout year. Blaney showed poise and the ability to do the best with what he was given while with the Wood Brothers, and things are bright now that he’s in the some of the best equipment in the garage.
Overall Expectations: Ryan Blaney came into the Cup Series around the same time as Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, so it’s easy for most people to forget about him when talking about the young guns that are going to take over the sport soon (if they haven’t already). However, Blaney is a very talented race car driver, and the fact that he had 14 top 10 finishes with the Wood Brothers last year says a lot. I’m expecting a good year out of Ford in 2018, and that includes Ryan, too: don’t be surprised if he ends up with double-digit top 5 finishes and a high-teens amount of top 10s this season.
Can Ryan Blaney win a Cup Series race in 2018? Yes. It’s not guaranteed or anything, but Ryan Blaney could easily grab a win or two during this upcoming season. We saw him get to victory lane at Pocono last year, and he’s also ran up front pretty consistently at Kansas, Chicago, and Las Vegas. If Team Penske can up their game on the 1.5-mile tracks in 2018, we could see all three drivers in victory lane at some point.
Ryan Blaney as a Fantasy Option in 2018
DraftKings: If Ryan Blaney is going to be a viable option in DraftKings during the 2018 season, he’s going to have to start getting dominator points. Because, to put it lightly, he was a pretty terrible pick in this format for most of last season. Yes, he did have great performances at Texas and Kansas, but you can’t overlook the fact that Blaney’s average place differential in 2017 was negative seven. Part of that is due to his qualifying abilities, which is a strength of Penske as well.
Season-Long Salary Cap Games: Ryan Blaney finished 9th in the points last year, and because of that he’s probably going to be close to that rank when it comes to his salary for season-long salary cap games. And, honestly, that’s a little too high. Blaney would need a breakout year in 2018 to make him worth a high salary in Fantasy NASCAR, and as I mentioned before, there are some concerns with Penske expanding to three teams this season. Not to mention Blaney’s average finish last year was 17.2 even though he had a top 10 points finish.