Ford Performance Notes and Quotes – Ryan Blaney Richmond 1 Transcript

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
Richmond 1 Advance | Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang for Team Penske, won the pole a year ago at Richmond Raceway, site of this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series action. Blaney has had good results at the short track of late, having started and finished in the top 10 the last three times he’s visited the facility. Blaney was this week’s guest on the weekly Ford NASCAR media call and talked about his hopes on Sunday.

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang – YOU HAVE A VIDEO ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS ABOUT YOUR FOUNDATION’S WORK WITH THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION. CAN YOU SHARE WHAT’S IT LIKE WORK WITH THAT GROUP? “I’m really excited to be working with the Alzheimer’s Association. Obviously, they’ve been amazing to work with the past few years and when we started our foundation in 2018 we wanted to focus toward something that had a personal connection with us and our family, and that was Alzheimer’s. My grandfather had it. Unfortunately, he passed away from it and it’s a pretty rough disease to watch anybody go through, so it’s been an absolute privilege to get to meet a lot of great people who are directly working with the Alzheimer’s Association and companies involved in it that are striving to try to find ways to help fight this disease and work with the Ad Council. I’m really excited for our public service announcement that’s gonna be coming out soon and hopefully it gives a lot of people information of where to go if you have a loved one or you are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, everyone finds it very helpful, so it’s just an absolute honor to be with those folks and I look forward to continuing to work with them for a long time.”

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT HAPPENED AT THE END WITH ALL OF THOSE RESTARTS AND IS THERE A SOLUTION FOR TURN ONE AT COTA? “Pretty wild. It’s like a roll of the dice if that restart is gonna work out for you or not, especially if you’re not in the first couple rows. I was restarting in like the 10th row or even further back than that. I had one work out for me, to where guys got slowed up and another guy got spun four rows in front of me and I snuck by about nine of them, and the next restart I got spun out just being middle of five and you’re just the unfortunate driver that gets turned around. We’ve seen that with these restart zones at these tracks – Indy and COTA come to mind of long straightaways leading to a very tight corner and everyone is always on the go button and everyone is wanting to make spots and restarts are the easiest place to make spots and at those places you have to be just a bulldog to make anything up. My solutions. We’ve talked about a couple things. I feel like between the drivers, what to do and maybe we have some momentum going forward on a couple thoughts, but my couple of quick thoughts were like, OK, let’s mount the radiators on the front bumpers so no one destroys someone in the rear bumper because you’re gonna bust your radiator. That would be a quick fix. Or, take about 80 percent of the bracing away from the road course and short track cars. You didn’t see that with the old car because you were worried about getting a tire rub yourself and you were a little bit more mindful. Now these cars are such tanks that everyone knows they can take it and they take advantage of it. Those are a couple of my short term cosmetic ideas, but there might be something a little bit easier going forward to try to fix that, but they’re definitely crazy and there were a lot of guys that were upset. And, obviously, sometimes, it happened to me at Indy last year, I think the last restart I got turned around and pushed into one by Daniel Suarez and I was mad at him, and then I watched the replay and it starts like four guys behind him, who just bumper car – shove, shove, shove, shove and gets to me, So, it’s like you can’t even be necessarily mad at the guy right behind you because he probably getting shoved into you by three cars behind him, so it’s like who the heck do you even get mad at and blame? It’s just the wild west right now on that side at a few of those tracks, but, unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for us. It was a long weekend for sure, but we’ll see if we can figure something out going forward.”

HOW DO YOU SEE RICHMOND GOING THIS WEEKEND WITH THE NEW PACKAGE? “I definitely think we’re gonna have a lot to deal with behind the wheel. This aero package at COTA and Phoenix, we kind of got a decent idea about it and I thought it was better at COTA than last year. I thought the trailing guy could be closer. It’s kind of hard on a road course, but you can still feel it. At Phoenix, I didn’t think it was too much of a change, honestly. In traffic, I thought you had your hands full a little bit more by yourself with just the lack of rear downforce, but the traffic side it kind of let me down a little bit. I thought it was gonna be a little bit better. I think it will be better at Richmond than Phoenix because Phoenix is pretty fast and Richmond you’re going a lot slower, tires wear out a lot more, so hopefully that helps it out. Richmond struggled a little bit last year, I thought, so I’m optimistic on going forward to Richmond and then Martinsville, I think, it’s gonna be even better yet. Drivers are gonna have their hands full by themselves trying to keep tires on it with the lack of rear grip, and I’m hopeful that the traffic side is better. I think it’s gonna be.”

BRISTOL DIRT IS NEXT WEEK. WHY HAVE YOU BEEN SO GOOD THERE AND WILL THIS YEAR’S BE ANY DIFFERENT THAN THE FIRST TWO? “I think you’re gonna be able to compare this year’s race to last year’s. The first year we went there, inaugural events are always tough, especially when it’s something that outside the box of how you run it, and I thought we did a good job last year of changing it to a night race. I thought that helped the racetrack a lot more. It wasn’t a dust bowl. I thought you could move around a lot more in the night time. Going back to this year, I think this car took the dirt track pretty well. The tire was a little better than what we had the first year, so hopefully no rain and I hope the track widens out even more. I thought it was a lot better than the first year as well as being wide and having some grip that you could kind of chase up the racetrack, and I hope it becomes even more so that way to where there are even more options. We had a fast car last year, but just kind of kept getting in the bad lane on the restart. I kept having to restart on the bottom and I’d lose two spots and then I’d still restart on the bottom and you’d have to fight your tail off to try to get those spots back, but I’m excited to go there. It puts on a good show and I think everyone really enjoys it. It’s something I look forward to – from last year I look forward to it. The first year I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know about this going back.’ It was kind of a crapshoot, but I thought last year was a big success as far as the raceability, and I think this year will hopefully be even better.”

WITH THE CHOOSE RULE IN EFFECT, HOW MANY CARS WILL IT TAKE FOR SOMEONE TO TAKE THE BOTTOM LINE? “The choose rule at the dirt track, I think, is huge that we were able to do that. It’s an option that we really fought for on not only road courses, but the dirt track as well. I think it’s gonna be even more important at the dirt track than the road courses. I didn’t think the choose rule at COTA was much different. You kind of just took the shortest lane, but Bristol dirt there’s gonna be a lot more strategy involved, I think. Like, if I’m 10th and I could possibly restart seventh, maybe I’d take it. You’d jump a row and you’d see if you could slide into a spot and get a couple spots, but I’d probably have to gain a row. We’ll just see how the track is. You kind of have your ideas, but then you see how the track restarts and if the bottom lane is just really bad trying to get going, and the average is a guy losing two spots or a row, maybe you have to be inclined to need two rows to make this count. If I could gain a row, I’ll probably take it right now, but I might switch up in the race.”

HOW DO YOU MEND FENCES WITH TEAMMATES VERSUS NON-TEAMMATES? “You have to mend those fences. Other drivers, if you get into it on the racetrack, yeah, everyone is different, but you might not put as much of an effort to mend those fences. Maybe if it’s someone you’re not too fond of, you might put minimal effort to mend a fence. You might mend it with a nail instead of a teammate you’re gonna mend that thing with screws and wire and maybe even a little bit of glue, just because you’re trying to work together and at the end of the day everybody is gonna come together, no matter if you’re a teammate, worst enemies, best friends, you do this enough you’re gonna get into it with everybody intentional or not and those things just happen. The teammate side, Joey and I have had a couple run-ins over the years, me and Austin, and you get over that stuff. You talk about it. You get over it and you move on from it. Those things you have to do, I think, fairly quickly. There is still probably something in the back of your head, but, at the same time, you’re a team and if you’ve got two teammates pissed off at each other, that doesn’t help the camaraderie of the whole organization. So, I’m sure those guys got over it, but, like I said, I don’t know their business. It’s important to try to set things straight when you and a teammate have a run-in because you can’t be walking around the race shop, and crew members, you can’t have them being mad at each other too. It’s a weird situation between those guys. It’s like, ‘Oh, my driver is mad at the teammate driver. Should we be mad at each other, too?’ Then it’s a weird dynamic in the shop, so those things have to be dealt with quickly.”

YOU KNOW YOUR TEAMMATE BETTER THAN OTHER GUYS, SO CAN YOU TELL IF THEY’RE GIVING YOU A STORY BETTER THAN TELLING THE TRUTH? “I don’t know. You know your teammates well, and sometimes maybe you’re like, ‘I don’t know if you’re telling me the full truth or you’re bs’ing me or not.’ I don’t know. It’s all kind of personal relationships with the drivers and teammates or friends and things like that. But, yeah, I think you can sometimes get a decent gauge, at least. It depends on how good of a poker face those guys have and whether you can get a really good read or not.”

THOUGHTS ON POTENTIAL SINGLE-FILE RESTARTS AT PLACES LIKE COTA AND INDIANAPOLIS? “That’s something we’ve thought about too and it’s a good observation about it. The Indy thing, yeah, you put yourself essentially in the fourth row and your chances of winning are reduced, but your chances of getting spun are probably reduced as well. So, I don’t know. The single-file restart is something I’ve been hearing around and at some tracks I could see it working. Like you said, COTA, Indy. It hurts you for sure if you’re 20th. I mean, you’re lining up way behind the leader, so that. Do you move the restart zone? Do you give the leader more of an opening window of when to go? At COTA, let’s say, like, not a lot of other racing series have double-file starts that run road courses, but like do you give the leader the choice where he can go anytime between 19 and the restart zone? So you kind of have like a short stint, slow down, turn, and then you have your long straightaway to where it kind of gaps everybody. You’re still doing double-file, but it kind of gaps a little bit to where it’s not everyone nose-to-tail 15 rows deep diving in there. There’s a lot of differing opinions and ideas that are floating around and we’ll see what we come up with, but, personally, from a driver’s standpoint it just gets messy. I can’t think that watching the end of that race was very compelling. I mean, there was a lot of drama going on, but, man, it took us a long time to run the final three laps of that thing, and there’s just a lot of people’s drivers getting turned and stuff like that. Is that the best look for the sport of us jamming it in there five-wide every time and just bumper car’ing each other? No, personally from a competitor standpoint I don’t think that’s a good look for the sport, but I don’t know. We’ll see what we come up with, but there is good and bad to each idea, I guess, so you’ll have that with anything.”

DOES SOMETHING NEED TO BE DONE BEFORE SONOMA OR CHICAGO? “I don’t think you need to do anything for Sonoma. The way the restart zone is there it’s slow and you’re going up the hill right away. You don’t get the four-wide kind of thing there, so I don’t think Sonoma is anything we need to be working on. I think Chicago is gonna be wild no matter what you do, so I think Chicago is something we should look at for the next road course to maybe try to switch things up, but Sonoma, I think, is a track that it doesn’t really happen, so I don’t think you need to address it there.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR SHORT TRACK PROGRAM IS TO OTHER TEAMS? “Basing it off of Phoenix, I thought our short track program was pretty decent. We started off the race not great. We could have maybe run seventh to 10th at the start and then by the end I thought we could have run fourth to sixth. I didn’t think we were a winning car at Phoenix. The Hendrick cars were good. The 4 was good there at the end before the last caution, so I think it’s OK. Phoenix is a little bit different. It’s a fast short track, so Richmond will be a good gauge of where you stack up – slow, a bunch of mechanical grip, tire conservation, so I’m optimistic for it, for sure. I thought we had good cars there last year in both races from the whole team, and I’m excited to get there. Hopefully, we learned a little bit from Phoenix that we can apply over to Richmond and keep building on that racetrack. So, I think it’s OK, but you can always improve, and I think we can get a little bit better.”

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF HAVING NO STAGES LAST WEEK AND SHOULD IT BE IMPLEMENTED AT TRACKS OUTSIDE OF ROAD COURSES? “The no stage thing was different than anything we’ve had the last handful of years. It’s a good thing in some areas. It hurts you in other areas like, for us, in our situation starting pretty much last from messing up on Saturday it hurt us because you don’t get a caution to reset and re-rack and maybe we would have probably obviously pitted before the stage break or just see how many cars pitted and tried to cycle further up in the field, but you didn’t have that at COTA. It changes up your strategy a little bit and makes it tougher for the guys who qualify in the back to get up there, but I think it’s good. The stage breaks jumbled up things a lot last year and, like I said, if you were struggling for speed, maybe you stay out and you get a handful of stage points, but you restart in the back where you were, or if you’re a really fast car you kind of have to bail on stage points most of the day and try to set yourself up for the third stage. It can help you or hurt you depending on what spot you’re in. I personally enjoy it. I feel like it makes a better flow of the race, more of a natural flow. As far as stage breaks at other tracks, I don’t really have an opinion either way. It is what it is and I’ll do whatever, but I think the road courses, I think it’s better for those and just enjoying the flow of the race. But, like I said, it hurt us at COTA, but I still think it’s a better way to do the road courses.”

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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