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Sunday October 22nd, 2017 11:40AM

Team Penske brings Blaney back in 2018 from Wood Brothers

By The Associated Press
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MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Ryan Blaney will drive a third entry for Team Penske in NASCAR's top series next year.

Blaney will drive the No. 12 Ford and join Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in team owner Roger Penske's NASCAR lineup. The 23-year-old Blaney was signed to Penske in 2012 and farmed out to race for Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney won his first career NASCAR Cup race this season at Pocono .

"The main goal when it started was, I wanted to drive in the Cup series for Penske," said Blaney, a third-generation driver. "I didn't really know what the timeline was going to be. I just kind of went with what we'd figure out year after year. I knew that the plan was going to open up eventually."

Logano and Keselowski both signed long-term extensions with Penske this season. Penske has not run three cars full-time since the 2010 season with Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr.

Blaney has three top-five finishes this season and is 12th in the standings. He will take crew chief Jeremy Bullins with him in 2018. His sponsor was not announced.

Blaney is part of a wave of young drivers who are proving themselves worthy replacements for yesterday's stars.

"He certainly should be proud of what he's been able to accomplish and how he's been able to adapt to changing times ," Team Penske President Tim Cindric said. "There's more than just driving the race car. You've got to do all the other things that go along with it, especially in our environment. You have to adapt to the current culture that's there."

One example: Blaney went on Facebook Live on Wednesday and said he wanted to race in the Indianapolis 500.

Penske said the time was right to bring Blaney back in the fold.

"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," Penske said. "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. 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."

Penske will need to acquire a charter to run the third car.

"I'm confident we'll have one in place by the time we go to Daytona," Cindric said.

Blaney's win at Pocono was the 99th career victory for the Wood Brothers, one of NASCAR's oldest and most storied teams. He was only the 18th driver to take the Wood Brothers to victory lane.

Paul Menard will leave Richard Childress Racing and drive for Wood Brothers Racing next season. Menard won the 2011 Brickyard 400 for his lone Cup win driving for RCR, which did not immediately announce his replacement. The team also is working on obtaining a charter.

Penske started the groundwork last year for Menard's defection when he reached a sponsorship deal with billionaire hardware mogul John Menard in the IndyCar Series. Menard was a team owner and sponsor in the series but walked away after the 2004 season to back his son in NASCAR.

In 2018, his son will race under the Penske umbrella. Menard also drive select Xfinity Series races for Team Penske in 2018.

"It's been a year in the making to get this deal done," Menard said.

Greg Erwin will serve as crew chief.

___

More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org

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