CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Roger Penske says he would certainly consider entering Ryan Blaney in a third full-time entry if his rookie driver won the Daytona 500 next month and became eligible for the Chase for the Championship.
Blaney is currently scheduled to run 18 races for the Wood Brothers this season, including six with support from Penske partners PPG, SKF and Snap-On. His first race in the legendary No. 21 will be at Daytona, an event the Wood Brothers won with Trevor Bayne back in 2011.
When asked about the possibility, Penske admitted he had forgotten that Blaney would become playoff eligible with a season-opening triumph.
“Well if he won at Daytona, I guess we would have to look at our schedule,” Penske said. “That’s a great question. The fact that it would make him eligible for the Chase for the Championship, I never thought about that scenario. I certainly would have to think about it.”
Making the Field of 16 isn’t as simple as just winning Daytona. Blaney would also have to remain in the top-30 in the championship standings while attempting to qualify for every race. He would also have to elect to accumulate points in the Sprint Cup Series before the start of the season, something he has yet to do.
Blaney is not running full-time in any of the three NASCAR national divisions.
Penske and the Wood Brothers originally scheduled Blaney to race 12 times in 2015 but announced the additional six on Wednesday at the annual NASCAR Media Tour. The 21-year-old believes the extra seat time will make a huge difference in his development.
“Seat time and track time is so big,” Blaney said. “It’s crazy what six races can do. It might not seem like a lot, but that is a lot of miles behind a race car, especially in the Cup Series. … It’s just going to be beneficial for everybody.”
The extra six races will also allow Blaney to compete for Rookie of the Year honors, as a driver must typically run half of the 36-race schedule to be eligible. A driver can run more than seven races in a series for one season and still be eligible for rookie honors the next year as long as he never earned points in the series. As it stands, the Sprint Cup Series does not have a rookie contender.
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