In the Fast Lane with Ryan Blaney

Arguably, Blaney's future looks quite bright with a win at Pocono last month. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Arguably, Blaney’s future looks quite bright with a win at Pocono last month. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

By and large, Ryan Blaney is in the midst of a career season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  The 23-year-old High Point, NC native scored a popular first Cup victory last month at Pocono Raceway.

In fact, this year has been quite kind to the popular sophomore racer.  For this reason, one might think that the Force is strong with this young man.  Furthermore, he announced on July 26, 2017, that he will join Team Penske as the driver of their No. 12 Ford Fusion entry starting in 2018.

Be that as it may, Blaney’s focus is on building towards a strong playoff run with the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion fielded by the Wood Brothers Racing effort. For this reason, even at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just a few weeks ago, the prospect of scoring his team’s 100th Cup victory is on his priority list.

A jack of all trades, be it behind the wheel, hosting a podcast, or taking on a popular reality TV show competition, Blaney thrives in a variety of situations.  Much like his father Dave, it’s safe to say that his family’s dry sense of humor lives on based on some of his responses in this interview.

Recently, I caught up with Blaney to get his thoughts on his strong year, the win at Pocono, and how he unwinds from the grind of the racing season. Get those gloves and shoes on because it’s time to get “In the Fast Lane with Ryan Blaney!”

Rob Tiongson :  So Ryan, you guys have had a terrific start to this season.  You guys got that runner-up at Daytona, and of course that awesome first win at Pocono.  So from your perspective, how exciting was it to contend at Daytona, and then get that first Cup win, all in a short time period?

All things considered, Blaney's in the midst of a career season. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

All things considered, Blaney’s in the midst of a career season. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Ryan Blaney :  Yeah, it’s kind of been an up and down season, really.  We started off strong at Daytona, like you said.  Then we went through some rough patches there.  There was a while we couldn’t seem to kind of catch a break. We had a month and a half that was really rough.

That was right before our Pocono win, and that Pocono win kind of turned it all around and definitely got the momentum back rolling our way.  But it’s been a fun year.

We’ve had pretty fast cars.  There was some months there when we weren’t the best, but I think we’re working our way back up to where we need to be, and I think that’s a good thing, right before the playoffs start it’s where you need to be, kind of on the rise, and not peaking right before.

You need to kind of peak right at Chicago and then keeping building.  So I think we’re on our way back there.

RT :  Now from your perspective, I know we talked about this earlier this year, do you feel like the new stage and points format has lived up to expectations, or are there some things you’d want to change just to kind of do more what it’s designed to do?

RB :  I like the stages.  I think it’s been really good to have all the stages.  I feel like we’ve benefited a lot.  Also, I think we have a lot of stage points compared to everybody, which has been nice.  It kind of got us through that month and a half there where we were struggling and getting wrecked at the end of these races.

That’s kind of kept us alive.  So, I enjoy it.  I know I think there’s some things they’re talking about tweaking around for next year, but all in all I think it’s going to stay the same, and I think the drivers and the teams and the fans enjoy it, from what it used to be.

RT :  I’ve got to ask you, this is something that my team and I have been talking about lately.  Would you be in favor of races moving into the middle of the week during the summer, or do you like the current schedule as it is?

RB :  I wouldn’t mind seeing some midweek races, to be honest with you.  I think that’d be pretty cool to do, if you find the right marketplace to go race maybe on a Wednesday or a Thursday.  I think that would be pretty neat and I know there have been some talks about it.

Whether it’s going to happen or not, I have no idea.  But I would be a fan of it, I’d be in favor of doing that.  I think it would be something different, something new, and I think you’d get a good turnout.  But like I said, it’s kind of the marketplace where you have to do it.

You have to do it at kind of a bigger populated area, maybe like a Vegas or something like that, to where people are always there and would come out.  So, I would like to do that.

RT :  Now, during the Pocono race weekend, not only did you get your first win, you also got to do that drivers-only telecast as a pit reporter.  Tell me how that experience came about.  Would you ever be open to doing it again, and if you did, would you do the pit road assignment again or would you want to do the booth?

RB :  Yeah, the broadcasting side was pretty neat.  I enjoyed doing that.  I thought it went fairly smooth for throwing just drivers in there and letting them have at it.  Everybody at FOX helped us out a bunch doing that.  The normal pit reporters and things like that, they were in our ear and helping us out during the race.  So it was cool to kind of be a part of that side, cause we’re never there.

We have no idea what goes on there.  We’re always in the racecar doing our job, and we don’t know what goes on and all the work they do, getting information, listening to radio chatter.  And it’s pretty  awesome, actually, to kind of see that side of it and be a part of it.

So, I would like to do it again.  I would kind of like to do the booth, something different.  Pit row was really fun, but you always like to do something different, and I think the booth would definitely be that.

RT :  Now, let’s talk a little bit off-track, if you will.  When you have some downtime from the track – granted, there’s not many times to do that – what are some of your favorite guilty pleasure TV shows, or bands that you like to watch or listen?

Rest assured, Blaney isn't listening to Manic Street Preachers. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Rest assured, Blaney isn’t listening to Manic Street Preachers. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

RB :  Yeah, you know, we don’t get a ton of downtime from the racetrack.  During the week we can kind of do our own thing.  But even during the week we’re pretty busy.  We have maybe one or two off days before we go to the racetrack.  But mainly those days I just like to relax, actually.  That’s one of the biggest things I like to do.  And I actually I’ve been busy, I’m in the process of getting a new house, so that’s been keeping me busy.

So that’s what my off days and weeks have been occupied with, trying to figure out all this stuff I need to do to get that accomplished and get the ball rolling there, so I’m pretty excited about that.  But normally, I just kind of hang out at home and play whatever video games I’ve got with some friends.

RT :  Growing up already!  Is Dale Jr. still going to be close by to get some beer?

RB :  Yeah, yeah.  (chuckles)  I’m not moving too far away, I’m only moving about 10 minutes up the road.  So won’t be my neighbor any more, but I’ll still be close, and hopefully, I’ll still be invited over there.

RT :  I’ve got a couple more questions for you.  You have a genuine respect for the sport and for your family’s history in racing.  You saw that your photo was installed on the Wood Brothers’ wall recently.  How was that like to see you amongst basically a virtual “who’s who” of NASCAR racing?

RB :  Yeah.  I thought that was really, really cool to be a part of that wall at the Wood Brothers museum up there in Stuart.  I’ve always wanted to be on that wall since I saw it in 2015, and I think it’s pretty spectacular to be up there and have your picture with all the other drivers who have won for the Wood Brothers.

That’s been pretty special to me, and to be up on that wall forever is definitely going to be really neat to remember for a long time.  We got their 99th, I’d like to get 100 for them.  That would be really cool to do this year.  And I think we’re in a position to do it, just a matter of closing out.  But yeah, seeing the photo put up on that wall was very special for me and my family, and I’m pretty fortunate to have it there.

RT :  My last question for you is, you got to have quite a lot of things happen for you this year.  You met Daisy Ridley in Los Angeles, you became the host of a great podcast series on NASCAR.com, and you got to do that American Ninja Warrior show recently.  Does it sometimes feel like it’s a blur for you, considering where you started and now getting these awesome opportunities, or is it just more like, “Hey, life’s a ride now, just go and enjoy it?”

May the force be with these two. (Photo Credit: Ryan Blaney's Twitter)

May the force be with these two. (Photo Credit: Ryan Blaney’s Twitter)

RB :  We’ve been really lucky to get some great opportunities, especially this year.  Just cool things for NASCAR, or personally.  That’s been really neat to go off and do some things that you highly enjoy doing.  I was fortunate enough, I toured Lucasfilm and Pixar the other week before Sonoma.

I thought that was really neat to be able to go do that, cause that’s some stuff I really enjoy and have enjoyed for a long time as a kid.  So those things are really neat, and you kind of have to really appreciate it whenever that does happen.

So those things, NASCAR’s done a great job of trying to integrate us in.  But it’s not really a blur.  You definitely remember those things and appreciate them for sure, and remember them for a long time.  But it’s just been nice to get those opportunities while still being able to race on Sundays is pretty neat.

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Ryan Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing for this wonderful opportunity at New Hampshire!  Furthermore, if you’d like to learn more about Ryan and his No. 21 team, “Follow” them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook page, and “Visit” their official website!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, you'll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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