To be certain, these are good times for Ryan Blaney.
Two weeks ago, the 20-year-old son of Sprint Cup veteran Dave Blaney was named the part-time driver of the Wood Brothers’ fabled No. 21 car for the 2015 Sprint Cup season.
Last weekend, Blaney challenged and beat Kyle Busch in the final laps of the Nationwide Series race at Bristol — a track where Busch, the all-time Nationwide wins leader, has been virtually unstoppable at times throughout his career.
Meanwhile, Blaney remains in the thick of the championship hunt in the Camping World Truck Series, where he is in his second year as a full-time competitor for Brad Keselowski Racing.
Entering Sunday’s truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Canada, Blaney is third in the standings and trails championship leader Johnny Sauter by 24 points.
As if Blaney needed any extra incentive, his truck owner — 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski — delivered Brad Keselowski Racing’s first truck win of the season last Thursday at Bristol, where a Ford visited a truck series Victory Lane for the first time all season.
Based on his owner’s breakthrough win for BKR last time out, one might assume Blaney would be carrying extra confidence into this weekend’s race on the Canadian road course.
The second-generation NASCAR driver insists that’s not really the case, however.
"It doesn’t really give me any extra confidence," Blaney said in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com. "We’ve had fast trucks all year and just haven’t been able to quite close them out, so confidence has always been there on the truck team of knowing that we could win races this year. It’s just to finally break through that first win of 2014 with the truck team, it’s good to know that, ‘OK, we finally got in Victory Lane this year in the truck series,’ and maybe that will take a little pressure off all the guys."
While his boss’ win doesn’t change his mindset, Blaney does consider beating Busch in the Nationwide Series a major shot in the arm. Blaney passed the veteran Busch on a restart with six laps remaining at Bristol and held on for his second career Nationwide Series win.
"It means a lot, with all the success he’s had at Bristol no matter what series it’s been in," said Blaney, who is running a part-time Nationwide Series schedule for Team Penske, for whom he is a development driver. "It was cool to kind of go head-to-head with him and be able to race him for the win and fortunately come out ahead of him. As young driver, that’s someone you look up to. Kyle’s been in it a long time and is someone who you always watch because he’s been so dominant in the truck series and Nationwide, and in the Cup series he’s been really good.
"So it was very cool to be able to race him hard like that. Your confidence level really goes through the roof when you get a chance and you beat a driver like that. It definitely means a lot."
While his truck and Nationwide plans are yet to be determined for next season, Blaney is thrilled about the opportunity to go Sprint Cup Series racing for the Wood Brothers — the sport’s oldest continuously operating team. Blaney is replacing Trevor Bayne, who is joining Roush Fenway Racing’s Sprint Cup program.
"I’m really excited to be in the Wood Brothers car next year for a handful of races," Blaney said. "I think it’s going to be great with the new Penske alliance that we’ve got. I think that’s really going to give that team what they need to kind of rise above everything and start being a very competitive team again. It’s been great to get to know Leonard (Wood, veteran team member) and Eddie and Len (Wood, team co-owners). It’s been very special to see the history there and just get to hear their stories. It’s very cool, so I’m really looking forward to it as far as running with the Wood Brothers, and I’ll still be with Team Penske and hopefully BKR a little bit, so I’m going to be doing a lot of racing next year and I think it’s going to be great. I’m very fortunate to be able to run a lot of races with good teams."
Right now, Blaney’s primary focus is this weekend’s road-course race at a venue where he qualified second and ran well last season before running into trouble.
"I’m going with better knowledge of the racetrack and everything like that, so I’m really looking forward to it," he said. "We had a great truck last year and unfortunately broke about halfway through the race and were just limping around there to the finish, and I think we have an even better piece going back this year. Hopefully, we stay out of trouble and stay up front."