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Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Talladega Media Availability

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR Zoom Media Availability | Thursday, April 22, 2021

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang — WHAT WAS THE CONVERSATION LIKE WITH ROGER PENSKE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE REGARDING HOW TO RACE EACH OTHER AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA? “I wouldn’t say it was awkward. We just had a call with myself, Joey, Brad, Matt DiBenedetto, RP and other Penske members, just trying to figure out what’s the best way to approach these races and how to finish them out. Even though I was on the couch watching the end of that race because we wrecked so early, you’re still a part of it and still hopefully find yourself in a situation at the end of the race to where yourself or your teammate — if we are in a spot where we’re one-two coming to the end of this thing, how do we go about that? How do we go about to make sure and do our best that we finish one-two no matter who wins. So, I feel like we had a really good discussion between all of us and hopefully we have a good plan and hopefully we find ourselves in that spot again to where we have teammates lined up at the end of this thing if we’re leading to try and work together and win the race. That’s the ultimate goal and obviously not the goal is what happened at Daytona and that was just two guys racing hard, but you want to avoid that because it’s not good for the whole team, but it’s hard to put yourself in that mindset when you’re out there competing in the heat of the battle. Everyone wants to win, so those things are tough, but I thought we had a really good discussion and hopefully we can apply the things that we talked about and try to finish 1-2-3-4 or 1-2 or whatever it is, just try to get a Penske car in victory lane.”

WHEN YOU WON AT TALLADEGA IN JUNE YOU MADE CONTACT WITH THE 20 CAR. IF THE 20 IS A TEAMMATE DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN RACE THAT WAY OR NOT? “That’s a good question and I feel like you kind of set me up for something, but it’s hard to predict that stuff. I don’t know. Until you’re in that situation, you don’t really know what you’re gonna do or what the circumstances are, and the deal with me and the 20 last year we made contact coming to the line trying to side draft and making contact and just a wild end to that race, so I don’t know. I don’t know if that is the 2 car, I don’t know what I’d do as far as you’re trying to just block any lane that you can. That’s a tough one, so until we’re in that situation and it happens, I’m not sure how to answer that, but you try to at least hope that one of us win, no matter whether it’s me or the figurative 2 car or 22 or whatever. You try to make sure one of us wins, so you’re gonna race teammates better than you’d race other people, especially coming to the line as far as giving them room and things like that, but that’s a tough one to answer — would I do the same thing, just because that wasn’t the situation.”

YOU GOT HELP FROM THE 47 AND 13 LATE IN THE RACE. WERE YOU CONCERNED THEY WOULD TRY TO SHUFFLE YOU OUT AND DID THAT LEAD TO YOU TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM THEM AS SOON AS YOU COULD? “Yeah, like you said the way the pit strategies kind of lined up and turned out, the 22 or 2 weren’t around. They were kind of further in the pack and there’s not really a lot of Fords behind me. I don’t know how I’m gonna win this race and, yeah, that thought did go through my head like, ‘They might just shuck me out,’ and sometimes you have no control if they shuck you out or not, but fortunate that it was the end of that race and the 47 was really fast all day and we were already getting a run off two and he was able to shove me to the lead, so at the end it’s tough. It’s kind of go with who you can. In some situations it’s go with who has a run as long as you don’t dump your teammate. If I dump, not dump as in wreck, but leave your teammate for the lane that’s coming, that’s not gonna go over as well, but in that spot coming down to the end of the race you had to take the run that was given to you, but you never know what the person behind you is gonna do — if they’re gonna bail on your or what. You’re putting faith in that person behind you to continue to be on your bumper and push you ahead, but it’s so tough sitting here and trying to predict the end of these races. You kind of try to do the best you can and make decisions in the moment and that decision was made when I felt like they had a run. I’m like, ‘I’ve got to go or else the 47 is gonna leap the train and pass all of us,’ so those decisions you make in the moment and it’s just one that worked out.”

THIS WEEK YOU TWEETED ABOUT JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO SAY SOMETHING AND VOICE YOUR REACTION PUBLICLY LIKE THAT? “Because I think it was the right thing to do. I’m not a big social media person, but that verdict — what happened last year was wrong. That was wrong what happened to George Floyd and I looked at as he should not have passed away, and the way that was handled was, in my mind, not handled the best way in the situation and I wanted to say something just to show support because I thought it was the right thing to do was the verdict that came out and just the situation that happened. So, I felt it was the right thing to do because it was my personal stance. You’re never gonna be able to repay a life to the Floyd family, but the best thing you can do is have someone who is held accountable for his actions like that officer was and that was just what I wanted to say.”

DO YOU LIKE THE CHESS MATCH THAT IS TALLADEGA? “I’ve always enjoyed speedway racing. You go into those races, any speedway race at Talladega and Daytona, understanding what can happen — kind of the unpredictability of those places on, ‘Hey, I could get tore up lap two’ and just kind of get caught up in someone else’s mess, but I like the racing. It’s just a different kind of racing. It’s kind of a chess match, sort of what lane you think is coming at the right time and you jumping in it and trying to work lanes and things like that. It’s a neat style of racing, so you love it when you win there and run good and survive it, and you hate the place when you get wrecked. You kind of get mixed feelings everytime you go back, but I enjoy it and it’s been good to us a couple years, being able to squeak a couple out up there, but it’s a lot of teamwork between your spotter and the driver and your teammates and Ford. It’s a lot of teamwork, so I like that side of it — the communication really has to be the best that it can be and working with Josh Williams, my spotter, he’s done a great job and we’ve done a good job of getting better every year of him watching the race and kind of telling me a lot of information on what to do. I usually don’t like a lot of talking on the radio or information besides the speedways because you just need that constant info, so I like that side — that everyone is really involved and takes a lot of teamwork and communication to run well there, but sometimes it all gets thrown out the window by getting wrecked, but you just understand that when you go there.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR TEAM IS AT RIGHT NOW AND PENSKE AS A WHOLE? “I think it’s been a pretty good start to our year, kind of take away the first three races. They were kind of unfortunate for us, but, other than that, I feel like we’ve made a really strong showing and getting a win early in the year is obviously nice, so I think the 12 group is in a really good spot right now. I know there are some things we’ve got to clean up at some places, like the Martinsville deal. It’s nice having a good run there and winning a couple of stages, but the deal that happened at the end of the race, the final pit stop you’re like, ‘My gosh.’ It’s just things we’ve got to clean up and that comes with time. As we get going you figure out the places you can improve at and you just sit down and figure that out, so I think the 12 group is doing real good right now. I think Penske as a whole is running strong. We’re fifth in the standings. I think Joey is second or third, so I think we’re strong and the 2 car has been running good too, and they’ll get a win here soon. And the 21 has been starting to click off good finishes. They’ve kind of had back luck, so I think as a group we’re getting close to where we need to be. There are a couple teams that are really fast — Hendrick and Gibbs are really fast right now — so we have to keep working hard to stay with those guys and Stewart-Haas will get it figured out here and they’ll be strong once again, so you’ve always got to stay on top of your game. You can never really be satisfied of where you’re at because no other team is satisfied where they’re at, they’re always working, so you have to be in that same mindset, but, right now, I think it’s going really well. We just have to keep it up and keep finding ways to improve.”

DOES IT FEEL THERE’S ONE TEAM OR ORGANIZATION THAT’S EMERGED AS THE FAVORITE? “I think Hendrick has been really good this year and they’ve shown that with three of their cars getting a win. The 5 car has been fast The 48 car winning last weekend at Richmond. They’ve been super strong out of the box and you know the 9 car is gonna be good here very shortly, so, to me, they’ve been really strong and Gibbs. It’s hard to say, but I think those two teams have been really strong and I think we’ve been right there with them, but I don’t think you could have a top dog team right now. I think it’s between the three of us and it’s just a matter of who hits it right on any given weekend.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT TALLADEGA AND SPEEDWAYS THAT FITS YOUR SKILL SET. IS IT THAT CONSTANT STREAM OF COMMUNICATION YOU MENTIONED OR IS THERE A DIFFERENT FACTOR IN PLAY? “That’s part of it. Communication between spotter and driver is really good. Bringing fast cars is obviously a huge help and some of it, I mean you’ve got to pepper in a little bit of luck too. I talked about it earlier, you can get tore up and it’s none of your doing. You’re just riding around there and someone slips up a little bit and you’re in a 15-car pileup. All of those things mixed together as far as being successful at Talladega and trying to find yourself in the right spot at the right time and if you do find yourself at the end of these races of capitalizing on it, and that goes back to the driver/spotter combination, so I think it’s different skills at different points of the races — kind of different situations, but it’s just trying to find yourself at the end of these things and trying to make the most of the situation.”

HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY CHANGE IN THE KANSAS TRACK SINCE IT WAS REPAVED 10 YEARS AGO? “I never got to race on it before it got repaved, but I feel like it’s aged pretty good. We were able to run all over that racetrack. The only thing that I would probably say is I wish it was a little bit rougher as far as bumps and things like that, but you can’t complain about it too much. It’s probably aged the best out of any track that has been paved in the last 10 years. I’d say that because you look at like a Michigan, like a Phoenix, things like that, before they added the VHT there it was hard to move around, so to be able to have a track like that run all the way at the wall, on the bottom, in the middle, that’s pretty good, so I think it’s aged very nicely. I don’t know what’s different with the pavement that they use there compared to other repaves that has made it like that, but it’s been doing pretty well, so it’s been a good track for us. It would be nice to finish one up there, but I can give it a thumbs-up on the aging process and that will just get better with time.”

AS YOUR CUP CAREER HAS PROGRESSED HOW HAS YOUR MENTAL APPROACH CHANGED AS FAR AS BALANCING EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO AT TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA? “I don’t really get stressed when you go there. You go into that race knowing what it is, knowing that there’s a lot of things that are out of your control that can happen to you, and you just learn to deal with it and you make the best of the situation. I don’t think about an accident that could happen at any moment throughout the race. If you’re thinking about that, then your mind is somewhere else. You understand what it can be, but when you’re out there running you’re not like, ‘Oh, we might wreck. We might wreck. We might wreck. I’m afraid to get in a wreck.’ You never think about that, at least I don’t. If it happens, it happens and until it does happen, you’re not conscious of that at all. You’re trying to figure out ways to get to the front, stay there and lead laps and win stages, win the race, so I feel like as you get older and you run more speedway races, get more experience on them, you understand more what they are and what they’re all about and approach them a little bit differently. I feel like when you’re young and it’s your first little bit of Cup speedway racing you’re really aggressive. I feel like you can be really aggressive. I know that I was, for sure, but in a different way I’m aggressive nowadays too, but you go about it in a different way. It’s kind of hard to explain, but maybe not do dumb moves like a young person would do, but as you gain experience you gain knowledge of how these races play out and you try to use that to your advantage.”

AT ONE POINT IN THOSE FIRST FEW YEARS DID YOU HAVE AN AHA MOMENT OF WHAT IT TOOK TO GET AROUND TALLADEGA? “I don’t know if there was a certain moment, but you just kind of gain information as you run there more and figure out how to work air better. I think that’s something people who have a lot of experience at those places they can work the air really efficiently as far as like side drafting, getting in front of runs, taking the right run at the right time — that stuff gets better and that just comes with experience. Before, let’s say you would take any kind of mediocre run and be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to take it,’ and you’d fall back. So, now you’re a little bit more conscious of, ‘That’s not a really good run. I’m not gonna take that. Let’s just stay in line and see if a better one builds up.’ That’s something you kind of learn as you get running more and you gain experience. Another one is when we were in fourth in like 2016 or 2015 and I didn’t take a run when I probably should have taken a run and I look back on that race and I’m like, ‘Well, dummy. You should have taken that run,’ but back then you don’t know any better, so those things you kind of just learn throughout the years.”

HARRISON BURTON IS MAKING HIS CUP DEBUT ON SUNDAY. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST CUP START AT TALLADEGA OR DAYTONA AND HOW WAS IT DIFFERENT THAN YOUR XFINITY AND TRUCK DEBUT? “I made my first Talladega Cup start in 2014. It was actually the 12 car. We ran two races that year and I remember it happens really fast, a lot faster than, yeah, I ran Trucks and XFINITY at Talladega before that, but it happens so much faster in the Cup stuff, especially the package now. The package now things happen really fast. The runs are huge. You can’t block some of these runs that come. You kind of just have to deal with it and try to rebuild some momentum. Harrison getting his first start at Talladega with no practice, you don’t feel how these things draft until we’re racing. He’ll get a good feel for it. He’s a really good race car driver. I’m sure he’ll do great, but I remember it just happens quick and you and your spotter have to be in sync with your movements and kind of how you’re going about the race and things like that, and your lanes. That’s something that he’ll learn very quickly and I’m sure he’ll pick it up right away, but that’s something I really remember is things happen really quickly and you can’t really prepare for that, you just have to experience it.”



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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