Ryan Blaney Focused on Playoff Run

All in all, Ryan Blaney appreciates his opportunities in the NASCAR Cup Series as a competitive, proven winner. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

All in all, Ryan Blaney appreciates his opportunities in the NASCAR Cup Series as a competitive, proven winner. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

By all means, Ryan Blaney continually delivers as one of the most competitive NASCAR Cup Series racers. Moreover, the 27-year-old High Point, N.C. native appreciates his opportunities with the No. 12 Menards Team Penske Ford entry.

Following two part time seasons from 2014 to ’15, Ryan Blaney catalyzed the No. 21 Wood Brothers Team for two years. In this case, the charismatic racer scored the famed Cup team’s first win since Bristol 2001 (Pocono spring 2017).

However, one must consider Ryan Blaney’s big break in 2012. Specifically, the bright, young upstart met with two motorsports luminaries.

Indeed, Blaney’s meeting nine years ago led him into a fruitful, thriving Cup career.

"In our sport, you’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to win." - Ryan Blaney (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“In our sport, you’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to win.” – Ryan Blaney (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“Nine years ago, I remember sitting down with Brad Keselowski, him wanting me to drive his trucks, meeting Mr. Penske,” Blaney recalled following his FireKeepers Casino 400 win. “I was 19 years old, 18, 19 years old. Take a blink, nine years down the road. It goes by fast, but really fortunate. That’s for certain.”

Surely, Roger Penske, one of the most illustrious icons in motorsports, recognized Blaney’s potential. Nowadays, Blaney asserts himself as a proven, competitive winner ready for a championship run.

Certainly, Penske’s faith in Blaney continually gets rewarded. Much like Tom Brady with the New England Patriots 20 years ago, it’s a mutual connection that grows stronger each year.

Raining on Blaney. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Raining on Blaney. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

“Gosh, I got talking, I think the other day, especially when I see Mr. Penske or everyone over there,” Blaney recalled. “I signed with the Penske group in the summer of 2012. I mean, that’s nine years ago. That does not feel like nine years ago. It’s definitely a blur. Time flies, that’s for sure.

“I’ve been really fortunate in my life to drive for some great people and get to know great people. Grow up watching dad run. He supported me all along the way, still does. So, yeah, it’s definitely been a blur.”

Blaney, who cut his teeth racing in quarter midgets, Bandoleros, Legends and late models, remains humble. Despite his incredible successes, he remains as kind, humble and thoughtful as the kid who chased his dreams.

Perhaps Blaney’s humility and grounded approach comes from his support system. Similarly, Blaney recognizes the importance of balancing his mental health with the high stakes of NASCAR Cup Series competition.

"We make a great living. But there’s tough things about our sport, too." - Blaney (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“We make a great living. But there’s tough things about our sport, too.” – Blaney (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, the mental health side, everyone kind of deals with it differently,” Blaney observed. “I deal with it differently than anybody else. That’s just kind of how it is. It’s not my right to tell somebody how to maybe work on theirs. The best thing I can do is just work on mine.

“I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is don’t bottle it in. I feel like that’s the best thing. Our jobs, any job really, can be stressful in certain situations. Everyone goes through a stressful time in their job, their career. No matter if it’s sports or working in an office or whatever, you go through stressful times.”

Sometimes, for those on the outside, drivers and athletes like Blaney seem unflappable and infallible. After all, there’s prestige, fame and fans appreciating almost every move and thought.

Then again, as Blaney points out, he and other athletes are as human as any of us. Beyond the fame and glory, a good support system proves vital and paramount.

“I don’t think a lot of people see that, especially on the athlete side,” Blaney shared. “I think a lot of people are like, ‘You make really good money, just shut up and do your sport, shut up and drive.’ I mean, we make a great living. But there’s tough things about our sport, too.

“It can weigh on you. The best thing I do is just be open about it with friends and family, trying to get things off your chest, not bottle things in. I think that can escalate stuff. That’s always helped me.”

In Blaney’s case, his family and friends prove as indelible as the unmistakable horsepower in his No. 12 Ford. Ahead of an intense, 10 race Playoff battle, Blaney recognizes the importance of handling the rigors of racing.

All things considered, Ryan Blaney prioritizes and balances what's important to him. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

All things considered, Ryan Blaney prioritizes and balances what’s important to him. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Ultimately, Blaney knows who he can turn to even with the pressures of celebrity and racing.

“I’ve been lucky to have a great family around me that I’ve been able to express some of these hard times with,” Blaney said. “Honestly, in our sport you’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to win. That’s just the nature of it. You have to really be able to let off some of that steam, be open with people, talk it out. Credit my family and friends for doing that. It’s really helped me out.”

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 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 his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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