Blaney a driver of future

Posted: August 03, 2014

RYAN BLANEY is pleased to be a prominent figure in the 2014 class of talented young racers. Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are already in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Blaney hopes to be there soon.

"It's really cool to be part of it," Blaney said in a telephone interview. "There's eight or nine of us. I've raced against a lot of them coming up. Hopefully, we'll all make it [to the Cup series] and be racing on Sundays."

Blaney, 20, reportedly will drive a limited Cup schedule next year for the Wood Brothers. This year, despite not winning a race, Blaney is the Camping World Truck Series points leader: He holds a four-point edge over Matt Crafton. Toyota drivers have won all 10 truck races this year.

Blaney will be driving the No. 29 Ford truck in today's 60-lap Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway. He won last year's Pocono truck race.

Driving for Brad Keselowski Racing in the truck series keeps Blaney around the 2012 Cup champion and his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano. In seven Nationwide series starts this year, Blaney has one pole and three top-five finishes. In last month's Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway Blaney led 47 laps before finishing ninth.

Greg Erwin, Penske's director of competition, was with Blaney at Chicagoland.

"Ryan does a terrific job," Erwin said. "He has good speed everywhere he goes. The Nationwide races are very different from trucks: They're a little longer. I think he's been drinking from the fire hose, but he doesn't mind."

Asked if "drinking from the fire hose" is a Southern expression, Erwin, from Hatboro, laughed and replied, "[It means] he's getting a lot thrown at him."

Like many young racers, Blaney is from a racing family. His father, Dave, is a veteran Cup racer. Uncle Dale, a former West Virginia U. basketball player, is a successful sprint-car racer. The family owns Sharon Speedway in Ohio.

"I'm fortunate to have a dad who knows what he's talking about [with racing]," Ryan said. "He's at my races unless he's racing."

Junior likes decision

With Greg Ives in place as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief next year, now Earnhardt and his team must deal with winding down their relationships with Steve Letarte. After this season Letarte will become an analyst for NASCAR telecasts on NBC Sports. The Portland, Maine, native is in his fourth year as Earnhardt's crew chief.

"There is a lot of emotion," Earnhardt said yesterday before qualifying began for tomorrow's GoBowling.com 400. "Every race gets a little bit harder knowing this is Steve's last year.

"The one thing that I was probably most happy [and] relieved about was to be able to make a decision. I didn't want to be in the middle of choosing that guy. I kind of wanted to just sit back and watch.

"I wanted Steve and Chad [Knaus] to make that decision with Doug [Duchardt] sort of overseeing it and Rick [Hendrick] giving his blessing. Those guys know the company so well and know the position so well and I trust them to make the better decision than I could have made. [Knaus is Jimmie Johnson's crew chief; Duchardt is executive vice president of Hendrick Motorsports].

"I just didn't want to have to sit there in limbo. I don't like being in limbo about nothing. It was great to hear how confident all of them were in this particular choice. That gets me excited. I already know how good Greg is, but just knowing that Chad and everybody believes in that decision and thinks that we will be even better off than we are today.

"That was one thing that I thought we could focus on: Any time you have an opportunity to fill a position you look at it as a chance to get better. Steve would want us to get better. We are not trying to photocopy Steve and plug in a guy just like him; we want to try to get better. I think we have in making this decision."

Ives has guided Chase Elliott to three Nationwide series wins this year. He was a team engineer during Jimmie Johnson's five consecutive Cup titles (2006-10).

Larson on pole

Rookie Kyle Larson was the fastest qualifier yesterday for tomorrow's Sprint Cup race at Pocono with a track-record clocking of 183.438 mph. He edged Ford driver Joey Logano (183.408). They broke Denny Hamlin's track mark of 181.415 set in June.

It's Larson's first Cup pole in the No. 42 Chevrolet. He started on the pole at Richmond in April, but that was based on practice speeds after qualifying was rained out.

Larson won the ARCA series race at Pocono in June. He's also racing in today's truck race at Pocono. "I sort of like Pennsylvania more," the native Californian said with a smile. Larson is 13th in the Cup points standings.

Allison ARCA winner

Justin Allison, whose grand uncle is NASCAR great Bobby Allison, won yesterday's rain-delayed ARCA series race. Allison, driving a Ford, took the lead with 11 laps remaining in the 50-lap Mod Space 125. It's Allison's first victory in nine ARCA starts.

Will Kimmel was second and Cherry Hill's Tom Hessert was third. Nick Igdalsky, the executive vice president and COO of Pocono Raceway, finished sixth.

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