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Ryan Blaney's race weekend features Sprint Cup debut

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 08 2014 05:16:39 PM CDT
Updated On: May 08 2014 05:16:39 PM CDT

By Jim Pedley

NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Ryan Blaney remembers well the time last year when he beat his father in a dirt Modified Series race. In the days afterward, the 20-year-old driver, who is now a NASCAR star-in-the-making, made sure that his father also would remember it well.

"I definitely gave him grief," a grinning Ryan said Thursday at Kansas Speedway, site of this weekend's NASCAR action.

On Saturday night, the younger Blaney will have a chance to improve on his record against his father, but this time on a much bigger stage as he and dad Dave Blaney are both entered in the 5-Hour Energy 400 Benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

If Ryan qualifies his No. 12 Team Penske SKF Ford for the Kansas race on Friday, it will be his Sprint Cup debut.

He will also be pulling double duty at Kansas if he qualifies, as Ryan is entered in the SFP 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on Friday night (8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

Yep, big weekend for Ryan Blaney. The one he has waited for all his racing life, he said Thursday during a media session in the Kansas infield.

With that in mind, the plan for the Cup race is simple.

"You hope to just get experience and run all 400 miles and not do anything foolish," Ryan said. "Hopefully, you get a good finish out of it and not make any mistakes. That's the worst thing you can do as a rookie, make a huge mistake in your debut."

A week ago at Talladega Superspeedway, Blaney made a huge mistake in the Nationwide Series race. Running side-by-side with leader Elliott Sadler, Blaney suddenly moved down the track, made contact and crashed into the wall.

As a result, he was toasted on social media and his NASCAR growing process, um, supplemented.

"I was trying to do too many things at once and unfortunately we messed up and that's something hard to bear," he said. "You never want to be the cause of that big event incident at a racetrack, especially at speedways. Unfortunately, I was and I caught a lot of hate for it over social media and stuff like that.

"No matter how hard it was to put it behind you, I tried to forget about it. Monday, I finally put it behind me."

This weekend is this weekend. It will begin for him Friday night in a series in which he has made very few mistakes since his debut 33 races ago. He is a two-time winner in a Camping World truck and has finished sixth at Daytona and fifth in Martinsville this year.

Then, if all goes well in qualifying, there will be the historic Cup debut and the intra-family grudge match that goes with it. Ryan and Dave Blaney, 51, would be the first father/son duo to compete in the same Cup Series event since Bobby Hamilton Sr. and Jr. raced at Atlanta on Oct. 30, 2005.

"I think it would be really great," Ryan said of Blaney vs. Blaney. "Just being part of that list would be really cool, of father/sons who have raced a Cup race together.

"We were able to run the truck race at Eldora together last year and that was a blast."

New truck bodies debut at 1.5-mile track

The Kansas race represents only the third race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. A very welcome return to action as the teams and drivers have not been on a track in ages -- since the Martinsville race at the end of March.

"It's been an eternity since we've been on a racetrack," Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Goof Off/Menards Toyota and the defending series champion, said.

The series did hold a test at Charlotte Motor Speedway recently, but tests are not races.

"Going back to Homestead (for the 2013 season-ending event), we've raced just three times in six months," Johnny Sauter, driver of the 98 Nextant Aerospace / Curb Records Toyota truck, said. "It's good to be back."

Moreover, with major body changes made to the trucks before the start of the 2014 season, and just the Daytona superspeedway and the Martinsville short track hosting their use, some in the garages are looking at Friday's race at the 1.5-mile intermediate Kansas Speedway track as very important to the new-truck learning process.

"I don't know how exactly it's going to handle in traffic," Crafton said of the new trucks, which feature a very different nose. "The first time we've ever had our Menards Toyota Tundra on a mile-and-a-half was a week or two weeks ago when we had a two-day test in Charlotte. They didn't drive that much different by themselves, so I haven't been in traffic with them to see how they handle, but I don't see that they're going to be that much different.

"We have three of them built to be able to run mile-and-a-halves, but at the same time, we don't know exactly what we're looking for in our wind tunnel numbers. It will be very interesting."

Sauter said, "You can test in the wind tunnel all you want, you can simulate all you want, but until you do it in a race, you just don't know" how the trucks will do.

Camping World renewal brightens Truck garage

The smiles were just a little bit bigger than normal in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garages at Kansas Speedway on Thursday -- all courtesy of news this week that entitlement sponsor Camping World has extended its contract for another seven years with NASCAR.

"It's great news for everybody," driver Johnny Sauter said. "Competitors always think about (the future of their sports). This is refreshing in a world that is always changing. You look at local news and it's all negative. This is refreshing."

The future of the No. 3 NASCAR national series constantly seemed to be the subject of rumors and speculation. With this week's news, Sauter said, all that can be put to rest until 2022.

"Your hear rumors all the time," the Wisconsin native said. "But I've been around this long enough not to believe everything I hear."

Driver Matt Crafton, a veteran of 318 truck starts, said, "It's huge for me and for all the owners, for every one of the crew guys and for everybody involved in the Camping World Truck Series -- it's very cool. I know when I read it that morning I was ecstatic over it just to know that Camping World and the Camping World Truck Series is going to be around for a long time to come.

"I know it was a big breath of fresh air for NASCAR too --- they have to sign two series sponsors and they got one of them out of the way and Camping World is stepping up, so that is very good."

Odds and ends

The Kansas NASCAR weekend got off to wet start on Thursday as rain moved in late in the morning and pushed the two Camping World Truck Series practices back about 45 minutes. Two one-hour practices were held. ... Two trucks withdrew, it was announced Thursday morning. Those were the No. 66 and No. 74 entries. Drivers on the entry list were listed at TBA for both trucks. Owners were listed at Chris Baluch and Mike Harmon, respectively. The withdrawals cut the field to 31 trucks.

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