Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Ford Zoom Call Transcript

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
Ford Zoom Media Availability | Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series for Team Penske, is coming off an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway. He spoke about that and a variety of other topics during today’s Ford Zoom call with media members.

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang — THE MY TRACK CHALLENGE CONTEST YOU’RE INVOLVED IN IS COMING TO A CONCLUSION. HOW HAS THAT GONE? “It’s just really been nice that Advance is wanting to do something like this and for them being a fairly new partner of ours they’ve been amazing to work with. For a company that is so into short track racing as much as they are, I’m just honored to be a part of it. The Advance My Track Challenge has been a lot of fun. To have so many short tracks around the United States and Canada have a chance to win $50,000 to improve their track, whether it’s the fan experience or maybe work on their facility a little bit, it’s all for a good cause. We’ve got the six finalists and we’re gonna be announcing the winner here very shortly, but there are a lot of great tracks. I’ve raced a lot of the tracks that are on their and some tracks I’ve never heard of, so we had a track from Alaska that was in the top six that looks to be amazing, and the background was pretty cool too. It’s just neat that Advance Auto Parts is willing to do that stuff and it’s even better for me because everybody comes from that world. Everyone comes from the short track world. We had a lot of Advance people at Darlington, thankfully, and a lot of people in the garage came up to them and said, ‘Thank you for doing this.’ And I told them, ‘Everyone in this garage has come from short tracks.’ That’s what it is, so I know everyone is very excited for it and I am too, and hopefully this continues for years to come.”

DOVER IS A TOUGH TRACK. WHAT MAKES IT SO TOUGH? “Yeah, it’s a tough racetrack. We run into it at Bristol with the concrete tracks of building up rubber and obviously everyone sees it. As we get running on there the track gets really black and that’s just all the rubber getting put down on it and that makes your car change a lot from a restart to even 10-15 laps on it, and then we pick all of that rubber up under caution and you kind of do it again, so it’s really important to try to keep in mind what do you think the track is going to do as you get laps on it and as the track changes your car is gonna change, but the people and the teams and the drivers that can stay ahead of that are really good, and I thought we had a couple decent runs there last year. I don’t think we’ve been in contention for a win, but I feel like this year we’ve learned a lot of stuff where we can go back and see what we’ve got, so I’m looking forward to this weekend, trying to get another Miles. That’s my Xfinity one (behind him on the desk), so hopefully we can get a Cup one here.”

CAN YOU ADDRESS THE HIGH BANKS AT DOVER AND WHAT THE SENSATION IS LIKE? “I feel like it’s a feeling that you can’t really describe well. We try to describe it to people as like kind of dropping off a cliff getting in the corners and then climbing that same corner on exit. I feel like you drop a couple stories, and everyone’s like, ‘Oh, cool,’ but you can’t feel that unless you’re actually out there in a car or something and going as fast as we are. The sensation of dropping into each corner is pretty amazing. No other racetrack is like that and the amount of g-force and load that you have on your car and your body in the middle of the corner is unlike anywhere else, so it’s definitely a rollercoaster of a racetrack. It makes things go very fast there, so you just try to stay out of trouble, but that’s something we work on a lot is how your car drops into the corner because it’s easy to drop in too hard and your car is all over the racetrack, but then you have to deal with crawling out and your car lifts up and you can kind of get all out of shape, so it’s a very fine line and there are some teams who have really perfected that.”

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW COTA AS FAR AS BEING SPECIFIC ABOUT EACH OF THE CORNERS? “With the very limited practice we have there, we have a simulator date planned a week before COTA next week, so that will be good. We’ve already run it on the simulator before, kind of earlier in the year just to get an idea, and I think that’s just the best tool you can use nowadays. We only have a very short practice at COTA. It’s nice to get a practice to kind of figure it out, but the sim stuff is really big. We use the heck out of that Ford sim in Concord, just try to get an idea on visual stuff, some braking things, so I think that’s gonna be really helpful for us. We’ll spend four hours in there next week just trying to figure out not only the car setup side, but my side too because there are a lot of different corners around there from what I could see and I’ve heard tons of elevation, a lot of tight, tight corners that will be really slow in our cars, so you’ll have to be able to brake well and then accelerate well out of those corners onto long straightaways, so the Ford sim is really all we’ve got, but it’s nice to have a practice. You’re gonna have to really utilize that, but how short the practice is gonna be you’re only gonna get a few runs by the time you get out of the pits, go all the way around, take the green to make a couple laps and come all the way back to the pits, you don’t get a lot of runs, so you’re gonna have to be on top of your game and make sure the car is ready, which we’re really good at that now. We don’t practice now, so it has to be ready for the race, but it will be very, very vital to be on top of your game and the Ford sim will definitely help that out.”

DO YOU HAVE THE CORNERS FIGURED OUT? “I know the racetrack. If you threw out the numbers, I don’t know like turn whatever. I don’t know if I could really point that out. I know turn one is a very sharp left-hander and then you have some esses and then you have after the esses there’s a left-hander, a right-hander that goes uphill, a left-hander that goes uphill and then you go down to I think turn six I believe it is, a sharp left-hander that leads all the way on the backstretch, so I know all the corners, I don’t know the numbers, but I usually put a little printout on my steering wheel to where I can point out each number of the corner, and all the road courses they have unique names for each corner and I think that’s too much, so I just stick with numbers and figure those out, but I know the racetrack.”

COTA STARTS A STRETCH OF 5 OF THE NEXT 11 RACES BEING ON ROAD COURSES. WHAT WILL THIS STRETCH BE LIKE? “You haven’t seen this many road courses ever on the Cup side and I think it’s good, just going to some new places like COTA, Road America — bringing the Cup cars there. That’s a great racetrack up in Wisconsin. I’ve been there a couple times to run the XFINITY car. Indy road course and Sonoma, obviously we know Sonoma, so there are a few new ones on the schedule that I think it’s just great. It’s good to try new things, bring the Cup Series to new areas of the country that maybe people out there haven’t necessarily seen a Cup race or a NASCAR race in general like COTA. That’s new for NASCAR in general down in Austin, so I think it’s good. I like how NASCAR is expanding to different types of areas and racetracks, but you’re definitely gonna have to step up your road course program. We don’t just have two like it used to be a few years ago. You’ve got a pretty good amount now, so you have to really put an even bigger emphasis on the road courses.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TESTING THE NEW CAR? “I ran it at Texas last week for a couple of days and it was definitely different, just kind of personally with RCR kind of running that deal we don’t have a car in our shop yet. That car was in our shop to kind of get my seat in it and I sat in it to get fitted and that was the first time I ever saw it, so I was really interesting in looking at it and learning about it. I learned a lot about it at the test of how you work on it. We were able to bring some of our guys out there to really kind of get their hands dirty on how you go about this change or how do you go about this change. It’s just different than what we’ve got now and they’ve been working on for years and years, so it’s gonna take everyone a little bit of time to efficiently work on these cars as fast as they can, but driving it I thought it was pretty good. You can definitely feel the differences. It has a lot less sideforce than what we have now. You could feel that kind of when it steps out it’s just a certain kind of degree of yaw where I slipped and you’re like, ‘Whoa.’ This would be really comfortable in the car we’ve got now, but this one it’s a little bit less comfortable, but it was just good to drive it, feel it, try new things on it, what changes worked, what didn’t, what I could feel, what couldn’t I feel. I’ll be really curious just to get around other cars. I think that’s the biggest thing is the car is gonna drive the way it does by itself. It is what it is, but how it drivers and is effective with other cars with dirty air all around it, that’s the biggest thing . We don’t really complain about the way the car drives by themselves no matter what package it is, it’s always dirty air. That’s what everyone talks about always, so that will be the big thing if we can finally get a handful of cars out there and really feel that out. I’m sure we will soon when everyone starts getting their cars and building them, but I thought it was good, just nice to kind of get behind the wheel of it and feel it first hand for a couple days.”

HOW WILL IT BE TO HAVE A CAR THAT YOU CAN BEAT AND BANG ON A BIT MORE? “I wouldn’t necessarily say knock the crap out of it. The performance is gonna go down if you keep beating on it, but I think they’ll definitely be more durable than what we’ve got now. I hit the wall a few times at Darlington. The last time I hit it was pretty hard and it really hurt the car. It’s amazing we didn’t blow a tire, but I think it’s something to where you have to have a little bit of forgiveness. The cars now we always talk about, ‘Man, you barely touch the wall and you get a tire rub and you blow a tire,’ and that’s no good or you barely kind of door somebody on accident and you get a tire rub and blow a tire and it ruins your day, so they’ve got to be a little bit more durable and I think they will be with the way the bodies are on them and what they’re made out of, so I think it will help, but you’ve got to be able to maybe rub a wall a little bit and it doesn’t completely kill the performance of your car. You can’t knock it down and keep on digging, but I think there’s got to be some equal ground and I think this car is gonna help that out a little bit as far as being a little bit more forgiving on if you did touch something, you don’t immediately blow a tire or you lose three-tenths. We’ll see.”

DO YOU AGREE IT WILL PUT DRIVING BACK IN THE COMPETITORS’ HANDS? “I think so from what I’ve heard and learned about it. There’s gonna be a lot of the same parts and pieces on every car coming from the same manufacturer – different areas of the car – so I think it will put a little bit more in the driver’s hands. There’s still gonna be a good amount of stuff that the teams will still set up on the car that is all the team and the best teams are gonna figure that out, but as far as making your own pieces and parts most of that has kind of gone out the window with this thing, which is something different, that’s for sure. I know we take a lot of pride at Penske on making a lot of our parts unique to what we think is the best, but in this day and age you’re trying to bring the fields closer together and that’s what the goal is for this.”

LOOKING AT THE CAR FROM A FAN PERSPECTIVE WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN A RACE CAR? “I’m a driver. I’m a fan of racing, but I’m a little skewed on that question because I’m driving, so I think sometimes what drivers think is good racing or what they think is the best product that we put on the racetrack maybe it’s different from what the fans want to see on the racetrack. That’s just me personally. I think a lot of things we agree on as far as fans and drivers of what we think is good racing and stuff, but as far as a fan perspective, I feel like when they see us slipping and sliding and almost wrecking every lap like we did at Darlington with the low downforce stuff, I feel like, to me, that’s awesome to watch and it’s a lot of fun to drive. When we are stuck with a lot of grip running wide-open around each other, but we’re packed up, that looks like good racing, but it can be very frustrating as a driver when you’re kind of packed up and you can’t breakaway and you’re running wide-open, so I might be a little skewed on that, but I just want to see drivers working hard. I think that’s the biggest thing that the fans can see that the drivers are working really hard and we are working super hard in the car the people can appreciate that. Like you saw at Darilngton where everyone was working so hard to get around that joint, to me, that is the best product you can put on the track.”

WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM LOOKING TO IMPROVE ON WHEN WE GO BACK TO THESE TRACKS THAT HOST PLAYOFF RACES? “I’ve been very proud of the improvements we’ve made at two racetracks where we haven’t been the best at in the past, or I haven’t, Richmond and Darlington. I feel like we’ve really made a big jump this year on our performance. We ran 11th at Richmond, got stage points there, that’s a pretty good day for me, and then running eighth at Darlington and getting stage points in both stages and kind of running in the top 10 all day that’s really big. That’s two tracks I’ve struggled at in the past a lot and myself and Todd Gordon and everyone in the group has put a huge emphasis on those two tracks just because they’re in the playoffs. That’s a big thing and they’re in the same round, so you can’t just go out there and run 15th-20th all day and not get stage points. That just kicks your butt, so those are two tracks we really put a huge thought on of, ‘OK, what do we have to do to do better here?” And I think we’ve really applied that. We have really good notes to go back there in the fall to these two racetracks and just run better, so I was very proud of the effort, but you’re always wanting to improve and keep improving, so I feel like we took a big step forward at those two tracks for us and I’m looking forward to hopefully taking another bit step forward here come the fall when they’re in the playoffs and it’s very, very important.”

WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT WHERE THE 12 TEAM IS NOW AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON? “I personally have been really proud of the whole 12 group this year, sitting fifth in points right now. I had a shot to win two or three races already this year. I look at Martinsville and Kansas was a good shot to win and maybe one more we had a good chance to win it and didn’t pull it off. From the start of the year we had, from our first three races from pretty much finishing last at Daytona and not having a good road course and getting wrecked at Homestead, the way we’ve clawed our way back into the top five in points I’m really proud of. I think the biggest thing for us is limiting mistakes. That’s one of the biggest things. I feel like our cars are pretty fast where they need to be. You obviously want to keep improving on that, but, like Martinsville, a pit mistake took us out of contention for that one. I’ve made a couple mistakes along the way, so I feel like just putting a bigger emphasis on that and closing out races. We’ve done a better job at it this year than I feel like we’ve done in the past, but that’s something that is really on our list to try to improve and you sit down and you talk about, ‘Hey, where can we improve? What areas do we need to fix and really put our focus on? And you apply that, and I think we did that in the off-season and it’s worked so far, you’ve just got to keep on that and keep finding ways to perfect those things that really matter a lot when it comes playoff time.”

WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT THIS YEAR? “Nothing really has surprised me. I don’t know if I’m very surprised by anything. It’s been a pretty decent year so far. I’d say maybe the pleasantly surprising thing about the season is how many fans we were able to have back at the racetrack. That’s been pleasantly surprising and how many tracks have opened up. Atlanta announced I think last week their full capacity is opening up when we go back and I feel like tracks are coming around to that like Darlington. We were able to have more family in the infield and some fans in the stands, so that has been pleasantly surprising to me just how quickly everything is getting better it seems like as far as healthy and everyone I think things getting safer for people to be around each other and coming to the racetrack again, so that has been nice for sure. You never know when that day is gonna come, thinking last year like, ‘When is the day gonna come where we can get people back coming around and it’s safe enough where everyone is healthy enough to do this and open up stuff and now it seems like it’s finally getting there, so that’s been pleasantly surprising to me that it’s happened this quickly.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE COMPETITION LEVEL THIS YEAR AND SOME BIG NAME DRIVERS HAVEN’T WON YET? “I think it just shows the amount of competition in the Cup Series, especially this year for sure. We’ve had a bunch of different winners. What is it? Nine already this year and, like you said, three of those guys that I’d say were probably the top three guys last year haven’t won yet, and you know they’re gonna win eventually here, so I think it just shows how many teams can go out and do it on any given week. The drivers are really good. Obviously, the 19 and Truex has been really fast here lately and he’s kind of separated himself from the field with three wins already, but I just think it’s good for the sport when you have more teams winning. I’m selfish and I want to win every single race, but it’s good for the sport to have more people winning, but you know those guys are gonna win so it just makes the competition that much tougher when you have more cars that can compete for wins every week. You don’t have just seven or eight guys who can do it. You have potentially 20 people who can go out there and win every single weekend.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE OF WHAT IS GOING TO BE THE MOST DIFFICULT PORTION OF COTA AND THE BEST PASSING ZONE? “I think the difficult thing is just going there and we’re not gonna have much practice. You’re not gonna have a lot of time to run around the race track to kind of as a driver get mental notes on, ‘OK, I’ve got to brake here. I’ve got to turn in here.’ Things like that. Those are huge, especially at road courses and you’re not gonna have a lot of time to kind of perfect that, and I think you’re gonna be using a lot of the race to continue learning about the racetrack. Passing zones, I feel like into one is pretty heavy braking. I feel you can out-brake someone into one. Through the esses I think you’re gonna be pretty single-file. That’s just really tight through there. I think it’s six or eight, the tight left-hander leading onto that long back straightaway you’re gonna have a lot of out-braking zones there, and then into the next left-hander after the long straightaway you’re gonna be able to out-brake someone there, so I feel like there’s gonna be probably five or six passing zones when we get there. A lot of heavy braking zones, a lot of tight corners where there are runs, so five or six I’m sure, but you just try to be prepared as much as you can for it from the sim to utilizing all of practice and then qualifying. It’s nice that we have qualifying, so I think it’ll be a good racetrack. That’s a beautiful facility I’ve heard and I’m looking forward to going down there.’

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

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