Over the years, Ryan Blaney, a sixth-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racer, continues his growth as a tenacious on-track competitor. Certainly, the 25-year-old native of High Point, N.C. has evolved from his teen years in the late models, NASCAR K&N Pro Series cars, and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series rides to his No. 12 Menards/PPG/Wrangler Ford Mustang fielded by Team Penske.
In like manner, the polite and candid driver continually shows his humility and grace with fans and press. By all means, the appeal surrounding this talented talent is justified. No doubt, his accessibility to fans at and away from the track is remarkable. Whether it’s Texas Motor Speedway or Michigan International Speedway, this third generation motorsports icon takes the time to sign memorabilia and mementos.
Comparatively, Blaney’s presence on social media is a testament to his tremendous understanding as one of the top drivers in NASCAR. Not to mention, he’s a racer who remains true to himself despite his successes.
All things considered, this young man continues to mature and flourish on the track. Ranked ninth in the Cup standings following Round 15 at Michigan, Blaney wants wins and to contend consistently for the Cup title. On that note, a ninth, while possibly satisfying to some, left the mild mannered racer desiring a stronger performance and result.
In the long run, Blaney has the makings to succeed and represent NASCAR to not only the younger demographics but those who love motorsports. Of course, he may be a catalyst to those who believe in things happening in a galaxy far, far away.
In any event, I caught up with Blaney during the Michigan race weekend. All in all, despite his stature in Cup, humility characterizes this Team Penske racer.
Given these points, let’s start “Catching Up with Ryan Blaney” to cover various talking points in his most casual interview yet on The Podium Finish!
Rob Tiongson : While it’s been an up and down year, you and your 12 team are plenty capable of being consistent front runners. With the second half of the regular season underway, what’s some of the takeaways from the first 14 races that you look to implement starting here at Michigan?
Ryan Blaney : You just try to figure out how to finish things off. You know, there’s some races that haven’t gone our way. Some of the races we’ve done pretty good at. You just try to get better every week and you know, say you’ve had a shot to win some races like we have this year, and don’t quite get it done, you try to figure out what you need to do to change that.
So, that’s the biggest thing you try to do. You try to improve that every week. You don’t really wait a certain amount of time to fix that – you want to fix that all the time. And, really, just not have it happen. But, it’s always a work in progress. That’s the main thing – just trying to capitalize on opportunities and be a little more consistent.
Rob Tiongson : Congratulations on your earning the first quarter NMPA Pocono Spirit Award. When you consider your accolades in motorsports, how big of an honor is it to win this with the work you do for your foundation?
Ryan Blaney : It’s nice. I don’t really care about winning awards. The foundation side is just to help people. I don’t really want to be commended for it – I just want it to do well. I just wanted to help people and help out the cause that we set to help out.
The award thing, that’s cool, but that’s not why I do it – to get awards. We do it to help people in need. That’s neat and I read about that. I think they’ve got the foundation a little bit more talked about too, so that’s good for something that just got kicked off here in the past month and a half to two months.
Rob Tiongson : It’s clear that you’ve got a love for vintage or nostalgic racing memorabilia. What sparked your interest in that and what’s perhaps the most unique acquisition you’ve made since you started this hobby?
Ryan Blaney : Hmm…I don’t know. I’ve got a lot. I’ve probably been collecting that stuff pretty seriously for the last five or six years and I would say I started collecting them pretty seriously six years ago and then I got really invested in it about three years ago. As you get older, I feel like you appreciate those things more and more, and you realize how hard they are to find.
Whether they’re old racing die-cast cars, old shirts, hats, jackets – that stuff’s just hard to come by. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I’ve made a lot of friends doing it. And I’ve met a lot of great people from fans to people working in NASCAR to who’s collected that stuff throughout the years. It’s been kind of nice to trade and things like that. I just want to have it in my hands. I’d save it for a long time. I wear some of it and I don’t wear a lot of it just to kind of preserve it. That stuff’s just neat. It’s rare things you don’t find.
I have stuff from the 70’s and that stuff’s just ridiculous. It’s in pretty surprisingly good shape for being from the late 70’s. I’d rather have it and know it’s safe than be out there, so I try to buy up all of the stuff I can when I can.
Rob Tiongson : This question comes from a young race fan named Caedmon Jones. With Father’s Day around the corner, it’s clear how your father and grandfather made a positive impact with your life. How much of a positive influence have both been to you with your passion for motorsports?
Ryan Blaney : Well, yea. They’re the reason I’m doing it. It started with my grandfather and my dad did it. I watched my dad do it while I was growing up, and that’s why I’m doing it. So, it just all started on the family side and the racing side, of course, there really wouldn’t be any of that without my grandfather, who started back in the day.
It’s been nice to grow up at racetracks and dad still runs and comes out to a lot of mine as well, so that’s been nice to still have him around while he’s still enjoying himself and still racing, so that part is pretty big.
Rob Tiongson : I imagine how excited you were to become a first-time uncle recently when your sister Emma and brother-in-law Cale welcomed your baby nephew Louie to the world. How enjoyable has it been to meet your newest family member and bond with him when you can?
Ryan Blaney : It’s good. That’s my first nephew, my parents’ first grandchild, so that was cool. It was on par for her as the oldest one to have a kid first and get married. So, that was nice and he’ll be five months old, so that’s been cool to watch him grow. They live in West Virginia, so I don’t see him all of the time. I don’t see him (a lot). I feel like it kind of goes three or four weeks in between seeing him, and big changes happen in three or four weeks with kids.
And that’s cool to see him with what’s changed. That’s what I always look forward to – what’s changed? What’s he noticed more of? And what does he do more? This time, he’s just growing. That part’s cool, and he’s good. I’m excited to watch him grow up and get older and spend some good time with his uncle when he can actually realize what’s going on. He has no attention span and no sense of anything that’s going on, obviously. But, yea, I’m excited to watch him grow up.
Hopefully, I can have him at the racetrack and try to get in Victory Lane (with him) here. We had a shot in one of these races and couldn’t do it. I think we ran third at Martinsville and I was ticked off with that. But, hopefully, we’ll get him in Victory Lane at some point.
Rob Tiongson : It goes by pretty quick, I’ll tell you! As you’ve become more popular and successful, you’ve somewhat developed your own legion of Blaniacs. Does it humble you to meet these dedicated fans and see how much they support your efforts?
Ryan Blaney : Yea, I mean, we wouldn’t be doing it without those people. It’s good to see people again that have been a fan of mine since I was running late models when I was 13. So, it’s just really cool to have those folks who’ve followed you ever since you got started and were fans of my dad back in the day. I’ll even meet some people who met my grandfather, so that part’s really cool.
I have some really great fans and I’ve been really fortunate to connect with them pretty well and meet a lot of them, talk with them, and hang out with them. That part’s been great, especially the last few years as it’s ramped up. You never want to lose where you’ve come from and who you are.
I don’t really enjoy the people who feel like they are too big for their shoes and forget about the people who helped them get to their certain spots in their career. You just want to be yourself and I think that’s why I get along with a lot of fans so well. Just be yourself and be nice to them. There’s no reason to be mean to anybody. But that part’s been nice. To meet a bunch of people along the way at the racetracks or away from the racetracks…I’ll see a random fan.
I feel like every week, when I’m away from the racetrack, they’ll come up to you, and start talking to you. To me, that’s very cool that they really follow NASCAR so intensely that they can recognize me outside of my uniform. So, that part’s really neat and you show every single one of them appreciation.
Rob Tiongson : Last but not least, man, it’s been about 7 years that we’ve known each other and when you made that appearance on my podcast. If you could go back to that race weekend in Kentucky and tell yourself what you’ve accomplished, how do you suppose your younger self would react? Recall, you were sword fighting your sister!
Ryan Blaney : Back in 2012? That’s right. (laughs) What would I tell myself? There’s a lot of things as you get older. In 2012, I was 19 and you’re a dumb teenager, man. And you get older and you kind of look back at yourself and you’re like, “Was I really like that?”
I don’t know – it’s easy to tell someone this but it’s harder to grow up as fast as you can. It’s good to be a kid every now and then. But try to mature as quick as you can. This is a sport that can really get you irritated and ticked off. And I’d probably tell him, “Don’t let the bad days ruin all of the good ones. Don’t dwell on things.”
As a kid, you dwell on every little thing that happens and goes wrong with you. As an adult, you’ve gotta let it go. It’s gone. There’s nothing you can do about it now. So, that’s probably what I’d tell my younger self in my younger years.
Special thanks to Ryan and the kind folks at Team Penske for this latest interview during the FireKeepers Casino 400 race weekend at Michigan! In addition to our outlet, keep up-to-date with Ryan on Twitter, Facebook, and his official website!