NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Is The Resurgence Of Wood Brothers Racing

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

After winning the 2011 Daytona 500 with Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing failed to keep up with bigger teams and NASCAR and quickly fell behind. This historic team is now on the rise once again with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel of the 21 car.

Wood Brothers Racing is one of the oldest and most respected organizations in NASCAR. Over the last couple of years though, they’ve failed to compete with teams like Hendrick Motor Sports and Joe Gibbs Racing.

In 2016 they announced that they would be running a full time Sprint Cup schedule with driver Ryan Blaney driving the 21 car.

Now Wood Brothers Racing is being talked about again throughout NASCAR. A full time cup return wouldn’t have been enough to make this possible though.

Instead, the success of Ryan Blaney so far this season has been the driving force that has brought the organization back into the spotlight. Blaney along with fellow rookie driver Chase Elliot have been major talking points this season in NASCAR as both drivers have run extremely well for their first Sprint Cup season and look to only improve over the coming years.

Wood Brothers Racing fell into the shadows of NASCAR after winning the Daytona 500 in 2011. With Blaney behind the wheel of the 21 car, the organization is rising to the top of NASCAR once again.

A Lot of History

The Wood Brothers have been a massive part of NASCAR since the sport’s inception, and are currently one of the oldest teams in stock car racing.

Yet for as long as they’ve been around, Wood Brothers Racing has failed to keep up with the new, younger teams in the sport like Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.

Apr 8, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (21) drives down the front stretch during qualifying for the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Blaney will start in seventh position. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Many legendary drivers have been behind the wheel of the 21 car including Cale Yarborough. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

It started in 1950 with Glen Wood being the first driver for Wood Brothers, and as the organization moved forward in NASCAR they would not only play a major part in revolutionizing the way pit stops are handled, but they also saw success in the sport with some of the best drivers to ever get behind the wheel of a car.

Ned Jarrett, Cale Yarborough, Fireball Roberts, and David Pearson all drove for Wood Brothers Racing at one point in their careers.

With such a massive history behind them, it’s no wonder they’ve been able to stay in NASCAR for as long as they have.

Yet even though they’ve continued to stay in the sport, Wood Brothers Racing hasn’t been a major team over the last several years.

The greatest accomplishment by the team within the last 5 years was winning the Daytona 500 back in 2011 with Trevor Bayne, but even after winning NASCAR’s biggest race Wood Brothers Racing fell into obscurity.

Blame it on not running a full time schedule, or a lack of success from Trevor Bayne after winning the Daytona 500, but after such a huge win with a promising young driver, it was a surprise to see the Wood Brothers not return to being a major team in NASCAR.

The Spark They Needed

Now in the 2016 season Wood Brothers Racing has re-emerged after announcing that they would run a full time Sprint Cup Series schedule with driver Ryan Blaney.

But a full time schedule and a new driver wouldn’t be enough to make them a team that fans were talking about again.

Instead it’s been about how successful the rookie driver has been so far this year.

Both Blaney and fellow rookie driver Chase Elliot continue to race well and in some cases, better than veteran drivers.

But when comparing both drivers, Chase has the advantage and less to struggle with.

Not only does he have a fantastic team around him after taking over for Jeff Gordon, he’s got teammates who are some of the best in NASCAR, one being a six time champion.

May 15, 2016; Dover, DE, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (21) leads driver Chase Elliott (24) during the AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliot continue to be two of the most impressive drivers this season. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O /

Blaney though is racing well but doesn’t have the team around him that Chase does, and has no teammates to rely on.

It’s what makes his solid season even more impressive for a rookie driver.

As long as Blaney continues to see success in NASCAR, he will continue to help Wood Brothers Racing remain in the spotlight.

The Realistic Underdog

Everyone loves a good underdog, and when it comes to NASCAR Wood Brothers Racing is the most realistic underdog in the sport.

Sure, there are other teams like Front Row Racing and BK Racing that fans could consider underdogs, but the problem with these teams is how they consistently fail to keep up to pace with other teams and drivers in NASCAR.

It’s great to see a driver like David Ragan win a race like Talladega, but this is something that rarely happens and for the most part drivers on the lower funded teams aren’t a factor during the season.

Ragan hasn’t posted a single top 10 this year and his best finish so far has been 14th.

Yes, you can consider drivers like Ragan to be underdogs, but realistically their chances of making the Chase are extremely slim, and even if they did make it (which would more than likely be because of winning a race, not points) they don’t have the cars or the team around them to even be considered a serious contender for the championship.

Feb 21, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards (19), Kevin Harvick (4), Jaime McMurray (1), Ryan Blaney (21), Brad Keselowski (2) and Kyle Larson (42) during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Blaney continues to run well against the best drivers in NASCAR. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Ryan Blaney though, is not only on a small single car team, but has consistently been a factor in races so far this year and has come close to winning. If he continues to run as well as he has been there is a realistic chance he could make the Chase, giving fans a real underdog to root for that could almost be compared to famous underdog drivers like Alan Kulwicki.

Blaney could make the Chase by winning a race or by points if he continues to run well and would make Wood Brothers Racing the realistic underdog team that everyone in NASCAR should be watching.

So Much Potential

With Ryan Blaney behind the wheel of the 21 car the potential for Wood Brothers Racing to once again be one of the main teams in NASCAR is on the rise.

Blaney continues to impress everyone in NASCAR from the fans to the analysts. As long as he runs well and works on getting into the Chase, Wood Brothers Racing will continue to be a team everyone is talking about.

As the NASCAR season moves closer to the Chase, expect to hear even more about the success of Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing as the young driver restores the long lasting organization to it’s former glory.

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