“Texas was a big bummer for us,” Blaney said. “I thought we had a pretty good car and were going to start making our way through the field when the motor let go. But getting the car to where it was before the problem does give us something to be proud of.
“It’s hard to find confidence when two out of our three races have been motor failures, but this team knows once the ball gets rolling and our luck picks up we will be just fine,” Blaney said.
The 21-year-old rookie has run five times at Talladega. In three turns behind the wheel of Brad Keselowski’s Camping World Truck Series Ford F Series, he posted two Top 6 finishes. Last season for Penske Racing, he ran an XFINITY Series race, starting sixth and finishing 21st, and a Sprint Cup race, starting fourth and finishing 22nd.
“Having a handful of starts at Talladega and one of those being a Cup race will definitely prepare me well for this race,” he said. “Having a speedway start at Daytona will help as well. Getting in the draft with the Cup cars is a lot different than with trucks or NXS. So we have a good idea heading into race weekend of what we need.
“It's kind of a lottery to see if you get the right draft at the right time,” Blaney added. “You just have to hope drivers want to work with you when it's time to go.”
Blaney hopes to put his name alongside the Wood Brothers greats who have driven the iconic No. 21 to six poles and five race wins at the Alabama superspeedway. Donnie Allison (1971 spring race), David Pearson (1972, 1973, 1974 spring races) and Neil Bonnett (1980 fall race) are the Woods’ previous Talladega champions.
To join those famous names, Blaney will need to heed the advice of his crew chief, Jeremy Bullins.
“I think the key to a good finish is keeping track position in the second half of the race,” Bullins said. “If you can be up front, you’re generally ahead of the big wrecks.
“Talladega will promote more three-wide racing than Daytona simply because the track is wider,” the first-year Sprint Cup crew chief said. “It’s probably harder to pass because handling is even less a factor than at Daytona, so you just try to keep your car up front any way you can.”
Practice sessions for the Geico 500 begin at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 1 and can be seen live on FOX Sports 1. Qualifying will take place at 1p.m. EDT on May 1 and will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1. The Geico 500 begins at 1 p.m. EDT on May 3 on FOX.
Ford Performance PR