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Ryan Blaney will move to a third Team Penske entry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018, with Paul Menard shifting to the Wood Brothers Racing team next season.
Both organizations made the joint announcement Wednesday, firming up two more partnerships in the annual “Silly Season” shuffle of driver-team pairings. Team Penske and the Wood Brothers share technical information through an alliance.
On a Wednesday afternoon teleconference, Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske, and Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing confirmed that crew chief Jeremy Bullins will stay with Blaney and move to the No. 12, while Greg Erwin will crew chief the No. 21 in 2018.
Blaney, 23, is in his third season driving the Wood Brothers’ famed No. 21 Ford. He scored his first Monster Energy Series victory earlier this year at Pocono Raceway. He will drive the No. 12 Ford Fusion next year and has blossomed into one of the sport’s young stars. He hosts a weekly podcast called “Glass Case of Emotion” on NASCAR.com, which you can watch here.
“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,” team owner Roger Penske said in a 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. Having a company like Menards, and a businessman like John Menard, be a part of this transition is also fantastic for our organization. The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”
The transition returns Blaney to the team that gave him his start in NASCAR’s premier series. Blaney made two starts in Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford in 2014 before joining the Wood Brothers, a satellite operation to Team Penske.
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Blaney also has driven part-time in six seasons of XFINITY Series competition, notching all five of his wins with the Roger Penske-owned operation. Beginning in 2018, he’ll be a direct teammate to Penske veterans Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” Blaney said. “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. I’m excited about the future.”
Wednesday’s news concludes an ambitious couple of days for Team Penske, which announced on Tuesday that 2012 premier series champion Brad Keselowski had agreed to a multiyear contract extension. Earlier this season, the team extended Logano’s contract through the 2022 season.
Menard, 36, will shift over to the Wood Brothers after a seven-year run in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 Chevrolet. That tenure included Menard’s lone premier series win (2011, Indianapolis) and two of his three career XFINITY victories.
Menard has made 383 NASCAR premier series starts since his debut in 2003. He currently sits 23rd in the series standings.
“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,” Menard said. “I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan (Blaney) has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.”
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Menards will sponsor the No. 21 Ford for 22 Monster Energy Series races. Additional sponsorship, including plans for long-time partner Motorcraft/Quick Lane, will be announced at a later date, the team announced in a press release.
Menard also will run a handful of XFINITY Series races for Team Penske in 2018.
Richard Childress, the Chairman and CEO of RCR, released a statement following news of Menard’s departure:
“Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future. Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017. We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”
Wood Brothers Racing, which has had the likes of David Pearson, Curtis Turner, Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker pilot the iconic No. 21, currently sits at 99 career wins in the Monster Energy Series.
“It’s fantastic to have the ability to continue to race in the highest level of motorsports full-time and something we look forward to doing with Paul for years to come,” Eddie Wood said in a team release. “I know this will allow us to continue to perform as an organization and will give Paul a great opportunity to go out there and compete for wins.”