Ryan Blaney Talladega 1 Media Advance

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
Talladega Media Advance | Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Wabash Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Team Penske, is the defending winner of this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. Blaney, who has three career victories at the track, answered questions from members of the media earlier today.

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Wabash Ford Mustang Dark Horse – IT’S A BIG WEEK BECAUSE MUSTANG WILL CELEBRATE ITS 60TH BIRTHDAY ON WEDNESDAY. YOU ARE A MUSTANG LOVER, SO WHAT DOES THIS DAY MEAN TO YOU? “It’s really neat to be part of something with the Ford Motor Company celebrating Mustangs’ 60th birthday. For anything, let alone a model of car, to stick around for 60 years is a pretty big feat when you think about adjusting with the times and adjusting with demands while staying pretty loyal to their roots and where the Mustang came from, so it’s just neat. It’s cool to see and hear about the history of the Mustang. It’s cool to race one on Sundays, so hopefully we can honor its 60th birthday with a win this weekend at Talladega.”

HAVE YOU WATCHED LAST FALL’S TALLADEGA RACE WITH TIM FEDEWA AND HOW DID THAT GO WITH YOU PASSING HARVICK AT THE END? “He and I have watched it. I think one of the big things when we started working together is we would sync up SMT and race footage and radio communication and kind of just listen to him and how he would talk to Kevin. We would listen to Josh of how he relayed information and we would just work off that. It’s, ‘Hey, here’s what I like that Josh did that I thought was really good.’ What TIm does on his side of it and how we kind of combine the best of both worlds, so we’re just working together. That’s one of the first things we did. We got to play around with it at Daytona. That was the first clip I asked for them to sync up because I’m like, ‘Oh, we’re racing each other. This is great. What would you have done different here, Timmy. This is kind of where I was thinking.’ We just kind of ping ponged off of each other, so it’s pretty neat to work with Timmy. He’s been great this year and it was fun the last time we were at Talladega. We were racing them for the win and just edged them out. Hopefully, we can get our first win together this weekend. He’s been great and we’ve been close. It’s just a matter of closing it out.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE BATTLE WITH PREECE AT TEXAS? “TV didn’t show. I used him up pretty good in three and four.and kind of ran him up the racetrack. I ran him up more than I was planning on. I was planning on taking some space and I kind of ran him up more than I thought and got him out of the groove. He was rightfully upset with that. I would have been too, and then he got to me a lap later and got into me pretty good. In my mind, I deserved to get used up, for sure, for what I did. I was guilty as charged, but I don’t know if I deserved to get junked for what I did, but it’s just one of those racing things. I know why he was upset. I used up a bunch of track and he was mad and he decided to retaliate. He had every right to retaliate, but I was like, ‘Man, you didn’t have to wreck me.’ You can move me out of the way, but just don’t wreck me. It’s just one of those things. You move on from it.”

SO YOU DIDN’T SEE IT AS EGREGIOUS AS SOME OF THE OTHER BIG RETALIATIONS WE’VE SEEN? “No. He had every right to get back at me. What I did is I ran him up the racetrack pretty bad and, like I said, I didn’t blame him for wanting to move me out of the way. How hard he hit me was a little excessive maybe because it caused me to wreck, but I deserved to get moved in some way for what I did. TV didn’t show that I used him up first, so it wasn’t just he ran me over. I used up him pretty big the lap before, so I don’t want it to get skewed to where, ‘Oh, Preece just wrecked me.’ No, it was deserving for him laying the bumper to me after what I did.”

A LOT WAS MADE ABOUT HOW AGGRESSIVE CHASE ELLIOTT WAS ON SUNDAY. HOW DO YOU MENTALLY GET BACK TO BEING AGGRESSIVE WHEN IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU WERE MAYBE CONTENDING TO WIN RACES? “I was happy for Chase, obviously. He had a rough year last year with his injury and everything that went on, so it was nice for him to get back to victory lane like he deserves to be in. He did what he needed to do to win the race. He didn’t do anything overly aggressive. He took opportunities like he needed to to win and he did it. I’ve been on a long winless streak, too. I think he was like at 42. I had a fiftysomething race winless streak and it gets hard and frustrating. It’s like, ‘What do I have to do to win again?’ It can be tough, but it’s the same Chase, the same great racer that he’s been forever. He just went through a little spell of not great times for a little bit, but that’s how you pull yourself out of it. I’m proud of him for clawing his way out of it and having confidence in his abilities and going out there and taking what was his and that was winning the race. I was happy for him for sure if we couldn’t do it.”

DO YOU HAVE TO RECONDITION YOURSELF TO RACE AGAINST THE TOP FIVE WHEN YOU’VE BEEN OUT OF THERE FOR A WHILE? “Mentally, you always try to have in the back of your head, like even when things aren’t going well, that I can still do this. He’s won so many races and he’s a champion. Obviously, there’s never a doubt that he can’t do it or still compete. You just go through a little slump and I think it took him a little while to really get back into the feel for this car because when he was injured he sat out for a while and he just missed all those races to where trying to gain experience and comfort in the car, and I think it took him a little bit to just kind of get that comfort back and understand what he needed to compete. I don’t think he ever doubted his abilities. He’s one of the best race car drivers out here and he’s amazing with what he does. I just think it was a matter of how can we put everything together to where I can get back running top five and competing for wins, and that’s what they did. I mean, the last month I think they’ve been one of the best teams consistently and they finally put one together at Texas and was able to get back to Victory Lane.”

BASED ON YOUR SUCCESS AT TALLADEGA AND WHAT YOU LEARNED AT DAYTONA AND ATLANTA, HOW DO YOU FEEL THE NEW MUSTANG DARK HORSE IS GOING TO PERFORM THIS WEEKEND? “The speedways have been pretty good for the Fords for a while. Ever since I’ve been in the Cup Series I feel like we’ve always been super strong and really been able to compete and try to control the race. That’s one thing we’ve always talked about is how can we control the race, whether it’s with our numbers in the Ford camp, the strategy, how can we just control the first handful of rows. It helps when you have fast cars and Ford has brought fast cars. Roush Yates has done a good job on knowing what we need at those racetracks. All of the Fords were strong at Atlanta. I thought we were really strong at Daytona and I’m sure Talladega is going to be the same way. We’ll all be really strong, so you just hope that you can be there at the end of this race and have a shot to win it. I have no doubt in the speed, it’s just about how you execute and try to get through the day. But I think we’ve been creeping up on it. It’s obviously not the performance like we would have wanted to have so far this year even on the other tracks, but we’ve put together some pretty good runs on our side. I thought we were great at Martinsville, but we just needed track position. At Texas, before we got mixed up with pit strategy at the of stage two I thought we were one of the best cars that could have competed for it, but we just got behind on pit strategy and never was able to finish it. We’re creeping up on it, so hopefully we can put one together at Talladega and get a Blue Oval in Victory Lane. We need that pretty bad and I couldn’t think of a better place to try and get one.”

HOW IS THIS NEW CAR AS A PUSHER ON TRACKS LIKE DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA? “I haven’t felt too much of a difference from Daytona. Atlanta, you’re not pushing as much there, but Talladega you’re kind of hooked up and pushing more than Daytona, so this will be a bigger test of ‘OK, where is this new nose at.’ I really didn’t feel too much of a difference when we played around with it in Daytona in practice and through the race. I still thought we could give the best pushes and connect really well, so that’s been a huge advantage for the Mustang as compared to the other guys. I feel they have more trouble connecting and you see it, like the Chevys have trouble tandem drafting a little bit and we’re just a little bit more secure when it comes to that stuff, so that’s a huge advantage that we have. Hopefully, we can continue to utilize that advantage.”

NASCAR IS FOCUSING ON TIRES FOR THE SHORT TRACK AND ROAD COURSE PACKAGE. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE TRIED? “The tire discussion seems to be a weekly, ‘what do we do?’ I try to put myself on both sides of it. As a racer, what do I want, but I’m also trying to put myself in Goodyear’s shoes. That’s a tough job. I wouldn’t want their job, personally. You’re always being asked of something that’s hard to obtain and you don’t know if it’s gonna work or not until you actually get going. You can do all the tests and mixtures and assumptions that you want, but until you actually get it on the track you’re like, ‘I don’t really know what our product is gonna do.’ You can’t simulate that stuff, so I try to not be on the side of, ‘Oh, Goodyear is not doing their job’ because they are. They’re trying the best they can, but it’s not an overnight thing. I don’t know. We’ve tried to go super soft. The groove thing has been talked about, not even like the tread but just having grooves in the tire, so I don’t know. I don’t know what the next step is. I know there are a lot of things being kicked around right now that you might see later on, possibly maybe at the All-Star Race it might be something to try of, ‘hey, we’ve got this idea, we’re really gonna throw something at it at the All-Star Race, short track, let’s see what this tire does.’ I know it’s a new pave at Wilkesboro, but I think there’s a lot of discussion going on right now of some wild stuff and I guess we’ll start throwing darts. That’s the time to do it.”

AS FAR AS GAINS FOR THE FORDS, COULD YOU HAVE SOMETHING IN PLACE BY KANSAS OR WILL IT TAKE LONGER TO IMPLEMENT THINGS YOU’VE LEARNED? “I personally felt more competitive at Texas than I did at Vegas. I know I ran third at Vegas, but I never felt like I had a shot to win the race. I always thought the best we were gonna perform was third and we did that and maximized our day. At Texas, during stage two I thought we could compete for the win. I thought I was on par with the 11 and the 45, the 9. I thought we made gains. I felt more competitive at Texas, so we definitely got closer, but we’ll be able to take what we learned from Texas compared to Vegas and apply it for Kansas. We try to turn that stuff around really quick and that’s what you need to do nowadays, so hopefully we can continue to just gather knowledge on what the best route is to take, what this car likes the best, and hopefully we can continue to gain when it comes time for Kansas.”

WOULD IT MAKE SENSE TO HAVE MORE CARS AT TIRE TESTS AS OPPOSED TO JUST THREE? “That’s definitely above my pay grade, but in my opinion, if I’m sitting here and like, ‘It’s free to run a race car at tests. Like it doesn’t cost any money.’ So, I mean, yeah, I don’t see why you don’t have, the way they do it right now is one car from each manufacturer, but now maybe do one car for a team or two cars for a team. That way you’ve got 15-plus cars out there that would help rubber the tracks in and give it a little bit more of a weekend accurate read on what it’s gonna be like when you have more cars. I’m personally all for that. I don’t know who makes those decisions, but I think all the drivers right now are like, ‘Whatever you need. Wherever we’ve got to go. However many days of testing you’ve got to do, we’re game for it’ because we want to help it out just as much as anybody. We don’t like it either. We want it to be better, too. I would love to see more cars out there in tire tests just to get more readings and then you get more opinions. It’s not just three guys talking about it, it’s 15 guys talking about it, so it’s a better discussion when you have more voices around.”

HOW DO YOU PROCESS EVERYTHING GOING ON WHEN IT’S SUCH A LONG SEASON? “I’ve tried to change myself the last couple years of trying not to look at the short term too much and try to just look ahead at kind of the grander picture of things. Like, where do I want to be at in two or three months and where does our program need to be at in that time if you’re not where you want to be? So, I try not to get panicked like, ‘Yeah, Ford hasn’t been to Victory Lane yet this year. Maybe we haven’t led tons of laps, but I don’t really let that freak me out too much. It’s a long year. Yeah, it’s important to win in the regular season because you gain playoff points and stuff like that and momentum, but all I can do is focus on this past weekend, where can we be better, what areas do we need to focus on to try to be better in and just work on those. That’s all you can do. I just try to have my outlook that way of what is the next job? How can we get this better? What is the next task and let’s go to work on it and let’s hope to figure it out. All we can do is work hard to figure it out, so I try to look at the long term. Yeah, I want to win right now obviously, but you’ve got to figure out how to have it just progress to where you want to be and that’s kind of how I’ve always tried to think of it these last couple of years and try not to let it bother me too much – just try to figure things out.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR TEAM IS THIS YEAR AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON COMPARED TO LAST? “I honestly feel like our group, and I can just speak for the 12 group on this, but I feel like we’re in even a better spot than we were last year at this time. I feel like we’ve done a better job this year of persevering through these races and just getting better and really digging in. I feel like last year it took us a little while. We ended last year in this spot like the last couple months of really persevering and digging down and figuring things out and we’ve carried that over to this year. There are a handful of races where we’ve run top five in that we weren’t top five to start the race and we just bent down and gritted our teeth and we figured it out and got better through the race and figured out how to get good finishes and that’s how you have to do it and that’s what this team does really well. Honestly, mentally I feel like our group is in a better spot than last year at this time, so that’s good. If we find a little bit of speed, I’m gonna love where this group is at because we’re almost firing on all cylinders right now. We just have to figure out some little things like pace on the racetrack and I think this group is mentally executing really well and I’m really proud of that. We just have to figure out the speed side a little bit and be a little bit quicker and a little bit better.”

WHAT IS A RACE YOU FEEL YOU WERE MENTALLY STRONG THIS YEAR AND GOT BETTER? “The Clash. Phoenix. Vegas. Texas. Martinsville. Every one of those racetracks, whether it was the first half of the race we were not very good and no one panicked, no one freaked out. We just figured out how to be better and executed and got our car faster and got back to looking at the bigger picture of, ‘what do I need to be good at mile 300’ as opposed to I’m not very good right now it’s gonna take some steps to get there. I probably missed a couple, but those ones stand out to me.”

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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