For the hard core, old school race fan, Sunday’s victory by Ryan Blaney was a welcome sight. It returned a pioneer NASCAR team to victory lane for the first time since 2011. The 23-year old son of a NASCAR journeyman is well-respected across the spectrum of NASCAR Nation. A product of the nation’s heartland, Ryan Blaney resonates well with the core of NASCAR’s fan base than most.
While Blaney is a racer’s son, being the progeny of World of Outlaws champion Dave Blaney really didn’t factor into Ryan’s rise. Not to suggest there’s anything wrong with the elevation of drivers with darker-colored skin into the Monster Energy Cup Series, the coming of age by Ryan Blaney has a more organic feel to it. Racing for Wood Brothers only enhances the feel good nature of the story.
As we’ve mentioned many times on these pages, Wood Brothers dates back to NASCAR’s infancy. While innovative and formidable from the 50s to the 70s, it wasn’t so long ago the team appeared on the brink of extinction. A true survivor, Wood Bros. is back in the high life again.
Not only do the fans like him, his competitors do too. At least for now. More winning and the potential for battles up front could shift perceptions.
Could Ryan Blaney be the new face of NASCAR as more familiar faces hang up their helmets a la Gordon, Stewart and Dale Jr.? I can’t think of a better alternative. Everything for the Blaney seems to possess the perfect mix of youth, talent and personality.
One of the positive highlights for 2017 has been the emergence of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney. There are more right around the corner. While enduring a few bumps in the road, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. could soon taste victory. It’s a beautiful thing.