Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Press Conference Transcript

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Ford Performance NASCAR Notes and Quotes

Auto Club 400 Advance – Auto Club Speedway

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, is one of five Ford drivers in the Top 10 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point standings going into Sunday’s race.  He visited the infield media center at Auto Club Speedway to talk about this weekend.

RYAN BLANEY – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE A CHANCE FOR THE POLE TODAY?  “I hope so.  I thought our car had really good speed off the bat in race trim, and kind of faded a little bit, and our qualifying trim stuff wasn’t really where we wanted it to be, but the good thing about having four hours before we qualify is you get to sit down and really diagnose what you need and try to get that better.  I know our team has been working hard and really all three cars have been really fast in qualifying trim, so hopefully we can get that first pole today.”

ALL THE FORDS SEEM TO HAVE SPEED.  IS THERE SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAT’S BEEN GOING ON THIS YEAR?  “I think it’s just hard work in the offseason.  Like you said, it’s not only the Wood Brothers team or the Penske group, but Stewart-Haas cars have been really fast as well and the Roush cars are showing some speed as well.  Ford has always worked very closely together with all the teams and now I think the teams are starting to work a little bit more together to try and share information.  When we get one Ford in victory lane it benefits everybody no matter what team you’re on, but I think it’s just hard work in the offseason from the motor department at Roush Yates to the OEM’s at Ford improving what we need on the body side.  It’s just a lot of hard work in the offseason, so it’s nice to be on top of things to start off.  You don’t want to be playing catch-up, so it’s nice to be out, I wouldn’t say ahead right now because there are a lot of fast teams out there, but I think we’re definitely on the right path, for sure.  But it’s all about improving and getting better each week.”

SO YOU CHANGE THE CAR FROM QUALIFYING TRIM TO RACE TRIM?  “Yes.  Fridays certain teams will have a certain schedule.  Some will start off in qualifying trim and you have to really change your whole race car for qualifying trim, whether that’s the balance under the car or aero side – you tape off the whole front grille to get more downforce – so that is qualifying trim.  But some teams will start in race trim to try to get a feel of how their race setup is for Sunday and try to get a little bit of a head start on Saturday.  We’ve been doing that a lot this year.  We used to start in q-trim on Fridays and I felt like the information on starting off Saturday in race trim we would be behind on that, so I know there are a handful of teams that started off in qualifying trim today, but most of them are race trim stuff.  That’s been benefitting us a lot on Fridays is starting in race trim, and then swapping over and then you can think about what improvements you need to make to your car before Saturday.  We’ve been lucky to do that because we’ve had speed in qualifying trim to where we don’t have to change the whole race car if we only get one or two runs in, so that’s really helped.”

YOU, KYLE LARSON AND CHASE ELLIOTT ARE ALL UP IN THE STANDINGS.  CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE FAST START FOR ALL THREE OF YOU?  “It’s been a good start for our team, for sure.  We’re really early still and there’s a long way to go, but it’s been pretty neat to start off on the right foot and then build off of that.  Like I said, you never want to start behind and then you’re kind of panicking, but it’s been nice to have some good runs early and, like you said, Kyle Larson and Chase have been a little bit better than us starting off this year with Larson leading the points and I think Chase is second or third right now, so while we want to beat those guys, it’s cool to see some younger drivers running very well.  I feel while we kind of started really hot out of the gate, at least out team from a confidence level is higher compared to last year.  When you get a full season under your belt and you kind of step back in the offseason and can pick out points you want to improve on and you make a list and you go to work really hard in the offseason to try to improve on those certain areas, whether it’s driving style for the driver or communication between the teams or personnel.  I think we’ve hit on a lot of those goals that we had while we’re still getting better and better, but it’s nice to have a good start right away.  Hopefully, we can keep getting better and keep the momentum rolling.  That’s all you can ask for.”

HAVE YOU DISCUSSED EXECUTION AND WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO FIND THAT CONSISTENCY?  “Yeah.  While we’ve had fast cars every week, I feel like there have been some miscues that held us back a lot.  At Atlanta we had some loose wheel issues, and last week at Phoenix we had a pretty good car and then we had a track bar adjuster break and that’s an obstacle you have to overcome.  I felt like we were overcoming it and then the driver sped on pit road with 50 to go, so when you have issues like that it’s important not to multiply them with further troubles like I did.  It’s all about minimizing mistakes and maximizing opportunities and I definitely maximized the mistakes for us last week.  I put us in a bad spot, so we’ll have to tone back on that and I think that will get us more consistent.  If we have a problem, we can overcome it.  It’s all about trying to overcome that and not making it worse because then it just goes downhill from there, so I think we have a lot better grasp on that this year than we had last year, so hopefully we can just keep improving on that and getting that better.”

HOW MUCH CHANGE IS THERE IN THE CASTOR, CAMBER AND TOE IN THE CAR FROM PHOENIX TO HERE?  “Really, the whole underbody of the car is different.  Phoenix, it’s a little bit more of a shorter race track.  The braking is really heavy, so we run a lot bigger brakes there, and then that kind of comes into the cooling aspect of it as well.  Here at Fontana with it being so big – a two-mile race track – you don’t really use the brakes.  The whole front of your car is blocked off and you run really small brakes and that helps the performance of the car.  The castor, the camber and all the front geometry is a lot different and that goes from size of the track to banking to complete downforce and shocks and springs.  It’s a whole other level that I honestly don’t have a huge grasp on – a little bit, everything is different going from track to track now.  We might have similarities from we go to Texas in three weeks and you have a lot more similarities from Fontana to Texas just because it’s a mile-and-a-half and your loads are fairly similar, but loads on the cars are a lot different from here to last week and that forces you to change everything just to maximize your performance.”

HOW ARE YOU ENJOYING YOUR AFFILIATION WITH THESE YOUNG STUDENTS?  “I’m excited to meet them and be here.  I was out here for a media tour in December and it was nice to become a part of it, and this is what we need is kids interested in the racing aspect of this sport.  It’s nice to see their interest level.  We need to grow to a younger generation and it’s nice to experience it first-hand.”

JUNIOR SAID YOU GUYS ARE FRIENDS BEFORE AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE AND EVERYTHING IS PAST WITH THE RADIO CHATTER, BUT WHAT’S THAT MOMENT LIKE ON TWITTER WHEN YOU REALIZE A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE ARE BUMMED OUT WITH YOU?  “I thought we were gonna go a whole conference without getting that and we met the quota, so that was good.  I was looking forward to talking about it.  We talked about it after the race.  We’re good friends and neighbors.  He owns the land that I live on, so strategically that may not have been the best thing for me to do that to him last week, but we’re good.  He’s a great guy and a good friend of mine.  I didn’t go on Twitter for a long time.  I got on it Sunday after the race and was hated widely by a lot of fans, and I’ve never had that before.  That was something a little bit different, so I didn’t get on social media for a few days.  None of that really bothers me – what other people think – as long as Dale and I are good and we are.  The social media side is good for the sport.  It’s really good for what we do and giving fans insight of what our daily lives are throughout the race, but sometimes it’s a burden and that just happened to be one of them, but you get over it and people forget.  Dale and I are good, so hopefully that blows over.  I’m excited for Sunday to see how many boos I’m gonna get.  I’m pumped for that.  I haven’t been booed before, so I’m excited for something new.”

 

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