In the Driver’s Seat with Ryan Blaney

 

Unassuming and amiable, Ryan Blaney relished 2018 with 2019 not too far in the distance. (Photo Credit: Kathleen Cassidy/TPF)

Unassuming and amiable, Ryan Blaney relished 2018 with 2019 not too far in the distance. (Photo Credit: Kathleen Cassidy/TPF)

On the racetrack, 24-year-old Ryan Blaney showcases his immense talent behind the wheel of his No. 12 Menards Ford fielded by Team Penske.  In fact, he’s one of the most aggressive, tenacious, but excitable racers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

While the young racer has made his mark on the track, chiefly for the Wood Brothers and Team Penske, he’s genuinely as cool and genuine as anyone gets in motorsports.  There’s nothing pretentious about this fifth year Cup star which might explain his emerging popularity with fans.

When it comes to wits, humor, and humility, Blaney possesses those intangibles.  One might say his personality is like ESPN’s Kenny Mayne or NBC Sports Network’s Dan Patrick.  In either case, it doesn’t take a lot to see why Blaney is a likable driver.

However, don’t mistaken joviality with his desire to get results.  Surely, he scored an exciting win at the Charlotte ROVAL in October and placed in the top-10 in points for the second straight season.

Jovial yet focused, Blaney doesn't mess around during game time. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Jovial yet focused, Blaney doesn’t mess around during game time. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Ultimately, Blaney hopes to duplicate his teammate Joey Logano’s magical performance from this season.  With Team Penske scoring their second overall Cup title, the North Carolinian wants a trophy of his own in 2019.

Recently, I caught up with Blaney during this offseason to get his quick take on the year, die-cast car collecting, and his love of animated action series.  Despite his humble self-evaluation, he’s multifaceted which makes him a hit with fans.

Let’s get “In the Driver’s Seat with Ryan Blaney” as we usher in the holidays and prepare for 2019 here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson:  You made your presence known in your first full year with Team Penske, battling in the NASCAR Playoffs and winning the wild race at the Charlotte ROVAL.  How would you evaluate your season in terms of execution and your growth as a driver over the years?

Bar none, Blaney's No. 12 Ford's colors are quite unmistakable. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Bar none, Blaney’s No. 12 Ford’s colors are quite unmistakable. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Ryan Blaney:  I’d say there were ups and downs. I can always be better and more consistent.

Tiongson:  Now that you’ve been with the Team Penske collective on the Cup side for a full year, what’s been your overall impression with racing their equipment?  Do you feel the best has yet to come for you as a Cup contender?

Blaney: The equipment is the same I had at the Wood Brothers. Obviously, I hope the best is yet to come.

Tiongson:  You’ve got two talented, aggressive, but championship winning teammates like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.  What have both brought to the table that you feel makes you a stronger racer?

Blaney:  They’ve been a good help over the years. There are strong relationships between us.

Tiongson:  You will be driving a fierce and fast looking 2019 Ford Mustang model that’ll replace the Fusion.  How excited are you to drive this iconic car on the Cup circuit next year and do you feel it’ll help engage younger fans into becoming car enthusiasts?

Blaney:  The Mustang should be neat. I’m looking forward to seeing how it drives.

Tiongson:  It was neat seeing you voice Overdrive on Disney XD’s SpiderMan episode this year.  Given how you’ve got a love for superhero, sci-fi, and action shows and series, is it safe to say that you are taken aback to live out some of your passions?

Blaney:  Doing the voiceover stuff is cool, especially the things I was a fan of as a kid.

Tiongson:  Lionel Racing has produced a variety of your Truck, XFINITY, and Cup rides you’ve driven during your NASCAR career.  Do you collect some of these cars and how humbling is it to be able to sign or hear stories from collectors about what these replicas mean to them?

Die-cast cars allow for great memories whether for fans or drivers like Blaney. (Photo Credit: Kathleen Cassidy/TPF)

Die-cast cars allow for great memories whether for fans or drivers like Blaney. (Photo Credit: Kathleen Cassidy/TPF)

Blaney:  I collect some of my cars, mainly the throwback cars from Darlington with all the Wood Brothers’ signatures on them.

Tiongson:  You seem to have great rapport with fellow young racers like Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Bubba Wallace, and Kyle Larson.  Would you say that these drivers are easily folks you can hang out or have a casual moment with at the track and away from it?

Blaney:  There’s a couple I know better than others. But overall, we grew up racing with each other at some point. So, it’s nice to see us all here on Sundays.

Tiongson:  It’s no secret that you’re one of the most popular racers in NASCAR given how approachable, accessible, and candid you are to the fans, press, and your peers on the track.  From your perspective, how does it feel to be one of the more likeable drivers in the sport given your growing fanbase?

Blaney:  I just try to be me at and away from the track by pretty much being nice and welcoming to anyone until they give a reason to dislike them.

Tiongson:  We’ve got a totally different package for 2019 that’s designed to promote closer, side-by-side racing.  Despite the limited on-track testing with this configuration, what are your expectations with this style of action and do you feel it’ll excite fans?

"It's twelve o'clock till midnight, there must be someone to blame." (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

“It’s twelve o’clock till midnight, there must be someone to blame.” (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Blaney:  It’s hard to tell about this package yet until we get everyone on the track. But I have high hopes for it.

Tiongson:  You’ve been able to rock the awesome hair. You’ve voiced a treacherous villain on a beloved comic book character’s cartoon series. Not to mention, you’ve mingled with the cast of the newer Star Wars films.  What’s perhaps one other secret hidden talent about yourself that you’ve not shared with fans or the press?

Blaney:  I don’t really have any hidden talents. I don’t have many talents, so I try to show them all. (laughs)

Tiongson:  One of your biggest fans, Amanda Shoopman, wanted to know what your favorite social media platform is, which flavor of BodyArmor you enjoy, and what is your favorite place to shop at during down time?

Blaney:  I like Instagram and Blackout Berry is my favorite BodyArmor flavor. And shopping? I don’t really do much of that.

Tiongson:  Lastly, when it comes to facing tough odds or when some critics seem to count you out, would you say it motivates you or makes you go, “Alright, let’s show folks what I’m made of?”

Undoubtedly, Blaney doesn't get phased by a lot of things. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Undoubtedly, Blaney doesn’t get phased by a lot of things. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Blaney:  I don’t care what critics say about me.

Author’s Notes

Special thanks to Ryan, Ian Moye, and Team Penske for making this opportunity possible.  We always appreciate catching up with Ryan over the years!

Get on the fast lane and be sure to “Like” Ryan’s Facebook, “Follow” his Twitter, and “Visit” his official website faster than Santa on Christmas Day!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, 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, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

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. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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