Wood Brothers expand schedule, will enter 18 races with Ryan Blaney

The iconic No. 21 Ford of Wood Brothers Racing will compete in half of this season's Sprint Cup events.

Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images

Wood Brothers Racing will expand its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule from 12 to 18 races this year, the team said Wednesday during its stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom.

Ryan Blaney will drive the team’s iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion this season, the first for a new partnership between the NASCAR’s oldest race team and Team Penske, the 2012 championship squad.

Blaney replaces Trevor Bayne, who this year moves to Roush Fenway Racing, where he will race a full Cup schedule for the first time.

The Wood Brothers have tentatively added races at Kentucky Speedway, the first New Hampshire Motor Speedway event, the Bristol Motor Speedway night race in August, Darlington Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway and the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said Len Wood, one of the team’s owners.

"We want to race every week and it kind of kills you when you’re not there," said team co-owner Eddie Wood.

This is the 65th year in NASCAR for the Wood Brothers, who have 98 Sprint Cup Series victories to their credit. To commemorate its long history at Darlington, the team is planning on running a circa-1976 David Pearson throwback paint scheme.

"This is a big shot in the arm," said Len Wood. "We worked together on this with Team Penske pretty much since we started talking about an alliance. They want Ryan to get as much seat time as he can."

Len said Blaney has been to the team’s museum in Stuart, Virginia twice already.

"We gave him a little history tour," Len said. "We’ve got a wall — like a winner’s wall — that’s got like big pictures of everybody that’s won in our car. There’s a little blank spot. I told him (Blaney), ‘We can fill that right up with you.’ So, yeah, I think he gets the history."

For his part, Blaney is happy to get the additional seat time that six more races bring.

"It might not seem like a lot, but it’s a lot of miles behind a race car, especially in the Cup Series," said Blaney, one of the top young prospects on the circuit. "It’s just really going to help myself, Jeremy (Bullins, crew chief) making pit calls. It’s really just going to be beneficial for everybody."