First Playoffs for Blaney, Stenhouse Jr.

Ryan Blaney and Ricky StenhouseJr.

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)

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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, which is probably our worst track in that little series.

“We still run decent there, but I think the biggest thing is just not making mistakes, getting stage points and not messing up on pit road with speeding or things like that. You don’t want silly things happening that kind of take you out of the first round because I think Round Two is really, really strong for us.  “There are some really good tracks for us in there, but I’m proud to just be in it. It’s nice to be a part of it with the Wood Brothers in my last year with them and hopefully we can have a good 10 weeks.  It’s going to be fun.”

While their confidence is admirable, most consider both drivers long shots in the title picture.

Stenhouse Jr. is fine with that view.

“I don’t really care,” he said.

“I think, for us, I think we’re all really happy to get our first wins in the same year. I think we’ve had a lot of fun with that and we’re looking forward to hopefully making many more wins as it comes.”

Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of Sunday's Tales of the Turtles 400 from Chicagoland Speedway, beginning at 2 p.m. (ET) - with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.

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