By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on September 16, 2017 | 9:55 A.M. EST
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have two new faces ready to run for the title in Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Photo: Getty Images)
JOLIET, Ill. – The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have two new faces ready to run for the title in Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The Ford duo made this year’s playoff grid thanks to both scoring their first career wins. Blaney’s came in the June Pocono visit while Stenhouse Jr. has won two of the season’s three restrictor-plate races at Talladega and Daytona.
While each driver is proud of their accomplishment of finding Victory Lane and making the playoffs, they understand Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway begins a brand new season. And even though they lack experience, neither believes that’s a reason to count them out of the championship picture.
“Come playoffs I don’t think the experience really has much to do with it,” said Stenhouse Jr., who will start 15th at Chicagoland. “I think whether your team and your car and your package is better or not, I think that’s where the advantage comes in.
“So I think we’ve made our cars better than where we were in the middle of the summer, so I’m looking forward to getting that on the track at Chicago and seeing how we stack up come that first practice, and kind of evaluate from there, but I don’t think really the experience has a ton to do with it. I think us drivers young, not experienced or experienced really just go out and race as hard as we can.”
Blaney, who qualified 12th for Sunday’s race, thinks the experience he has racing at the tracks that comprise the playoff schedule will its own benefit.
“I think all of the races in the playoffs we can go and do really good at,” he said. “I think the first round is pretty strong for us, and Chicago has always been a fast race track for us, so hopefully we can start off with a strong showing and can have a good run to where we go to Loudon,