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Ryan Blaney tired of being ‘bottom of the totem pole’ at Team Penske

Ryan Blaney

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 09: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 DEX Imaging Ford, stands by his car during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on November 09, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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CONCORD, N.C. -- While Ryan Blaney says he’s not treated like it by his Team Penske peers, he knows how his performance output has compared to his teammates over the last few years.

“I look back and I’ve been the third best performing driver since ’16,” Blaney said during a media event Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “You don’t want to be that guy. That’s something I want to change really bad.”

Blaney, who is in the last year of his contract with the team, admitted being “the last guy” can “put your job in jeopardy.”

In his first four full-time Cup seasons, two with the Penske-aligned Wood Brothers Racing before transitioning to Penske’s No. 12 car, Blaney has three wins and 26 top fives. His wins have come at a pace of one a year starting in 2017, with two earned in dramatic last-lap fashion on the Charlotte Roval and last season at Talladega.

“You don’t want to be a one-win a year guy,” Blaney said. “People tell me that it’s better than no wins a year. You want to be level or above your teammates. That’s just a competitor thing.”

Enter Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski had 13 wins and 56 top fives in the last four seasons, while Logano claimed nine wins, 51 top fives and the 2018 Cup championship.

“I don’t want to be the bottom of the totem pole,” Blaney said. “I’m not treated like that. I’m not saying that. I get everything those guys get. ... Joey and Brad are great. They’re both champions. I want to be better than those guys, that’s obviously the goal. It’s a personal thing. I need to get better.”

He hopes Team Penske’s major crew chief/crew shakeup announced earlier this month will do a lot toward making that a reality.

The 26-year-old driver enters his fifth full-time Cup season paired with crew chief Todd Gordon, who moves over to the No. 12 after eight years working on the No. 22. Seven of those were spent with Logano behind the wheel.

Blaney’s previous crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, is now paired with Keselowski on the No. 2 Ford and Keselowski’s former crew chief, Paul Wolfe, is paired with Logano.

“I wouldn’t say I needed a kick in the ass,” Blaney said of the shakeup. “I feel like when things like that happen, they happen so abruptly and it’s a big change for everybody. It kind of opens some people’s eyes. ‘Oh, ok we weren’t doing as good as we thought. We need to be better.’ They’re not afraid to make a change. It might get everyone hungry. I want to show I can do this with a new person. … Change can be good. If you’re going to make change, don’t make a little change. I’m a big fan of big overhauls. I think it will give everyone a big jolt of energy. We’ll find out in about a month.”

Gordon has proven what he can do with a young driver who has struggled to produce consistent success.

When Logano arrived at Team Penske in 2013 at the age of 23, he brought with him a four-year record at Joe Gibbs Racing that saw him win twice, in his first and final years with the team.

While they only won once in 2013, over the next three years Logano and Gordon claimed 14 victories. After missing the playoffs in 2017, they won five times over the last two seasons and won the 2018 title.

“Working with someone new is going to challenge me more to learn him and you kind of combine your two knowledges,” Blaney said. “You have your own language, right? You mesh them together and you hopefully understand and work on and both make sure you understand.”

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