Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Transcript Atlanta

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

Folds of Honor 500 Advance (Atlanta Motor Speedway)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Page 7

 

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Fusion, came into the Atlanta Motor Speedway infield media center to talk about his expectations for this weekend’s Folds of Honor 500.

 

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Fusion – HOW HAS YOUR WEEK BEEN AND HOW EAGER WERE YOU TO GET BACK ON TRACK HERE AT ATLANTA?  “It’s been pretty relaxed, to be honest with you.  We didn’t really do much.  You just do your typical debriefs, but it’s nice to be home after 10 days of being in Daytona, and the weather was pretty nice in North Carolina too, which was that much better.  I’m excited to get back to the race track.  It’s always nice to have a little bit of down time from the 10 days you’re down in Daytona, but you’re ready to get back to the race track and this place is awesome.  We’re slipping and sliding and it’s just a fun place to come.  We struggled a little bit today in qualifying trim, but hopefully we can get a little bit better, but it’s nice to be back and nice to get the season started to roll.”

 

DO YOU LEAVE DAYTONA PLEASED WITH HOW YOU DID OR DISAPPOINTED YOU COULDN’T CLOSE IT OUT AND IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT?  “I don’t know.  I was in kind of a weird mood Sunday and Monday and I wasn’t really distraught or nothing, but I wasn’t really happy or excited.  I was almost in kind of a weird, peaceful mood, which was strange.  I knew we went out and we did the best that we could and it just didn’t work out for us and what are you gonna do?  You can’t complain too much about that.  We had the lead and we lost on the restart and we actually got it back and get shuffled back.  It was so hard to block as the leader and it was nuts after that 10 to go caution.  I knew it was gonna get nuts, but I wasn’t really disappointed.  Yeah, you lead a bunch of the race and you lose out on the 500, but I don’t care about leading 100-and-some laps, I’d rather lead one and you can’t be too down about it.  You just move on and you try to learn from your mistakes and try to figure out what you can do a little bit better, but I wasn’t really that distraught or nothing.  I was just in a weird mood, but it wasn’t bad.”

 

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BE LEADING THE POINTS?  “I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t even looked at the points.  If you wouldn’t have told me that, I wouldn’t even have known I was the points leader.  It’s not somewhere you’re gonna be sitting for 37 weeks.  You just try to go out there and do the best you can.  We haven’t really raced yet.  We haven’t gone to a track where you’re working on your car throughout practice to try to get it to handle and handle on long runs.  At Daytona you do a little bit of that, but it’s not like here or Vegas or Phoenix, so I haven’t even paid attention to that.  You just try to focus on how you can go to Atlanta and have a good run, and go try to win the race.  That was really my main focus.  I haven’t really paid attention to the points or anything like that.  I want to win races and the points thing is kind of last on my mind maybe, unless we get closer to Playoff time and I don’t have a win.  Then you start focusing on the points, but definitely early in the season you just want to get a win and try to start the season off on the right foot.”

 

 

RYAN BLANEY  — WHERE DID YOUR INSTINCT OF INTERACTING WITH FANS COME FROM?  “I don’t really know, to be honest with you.  Maybe growing up watching my dad do it.  I felt like my dad was really good at giving a lot of his time to the fans and appreciating them and when you’re growing up in the garage area and you’re admiring your dad and you watch him do everything, that’s what you learn, that’s what you pick up on.  Honestly, I wasn’t like this until probably only two or three years ago I was very introverted and still am, and I honestly talk more with fans than I do other people – with strangers than I do other people who I know a little bit better for some reason.  I think the more you’re around this sport and the older that you get, you appreciate the time and commitment that these fans have, that these people have to bring their families out to the race weekends.  They don’t have to come.  They can stay home and watch the race, but they want to bring their families out, they want to enjoy the race and they don’t have to be a fan of you.  They don’t even know you, but they’re a fan of how you drive or how you are off the track, so I feel like if you get to meet them and get a little bit more of your own personality to them that it’s the least we can do to appreciate everybody.  It’s really only been that way for a couple of years and I think it was mainly from watching my dad and growing up in this sport.”

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL BUBBA WALLACE HANDLING ALL OF THE MEDIA ATTENTION HE GOT THESE PAST FEW WEEKS?  AND COULD HE HAVE HANDLED THAT THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO?  “I thought he did a really good job of handling it well.  That was a long week-and-a-half in Daytona, but honestly when they made that 43 annoucement he was getting blown-up on doing media stuff and social media and things like that, and I thought he handled it well.  The actual at-track stuff he did really well and it’s funny, I’ll tell you all a story.  I think it was right when I got down to Daytona, maybe Friday, and I was watching quarter-midget races over there in the infield and Dale Jr. gives me a call.  He was like, ‘Hey, I need you to go call Bubba and calm him down because I think he was getting really overwhelmed with all the media and the pressure that was kind of being bestowed upon him and we haven’t even got started yet.’  He and I had a little bit of a talk and not really a talk, but just trying to relax him and telling him that he deserves to be here and don’t let all that other stuff – it’s a good thing that he’s getting recognized in all forms of TV and entertainment and media and don’t see it as pressure, see it as a well-deserved opportunity that he got.  But I think he dealt with it really well and he proved that Sunday when he was able to kind of put all this behind him and just go out there and race.  I don’t think he could have handled that a few years ago.  I think he’s matured a lot over the past two or three years, and, honestly, I feel like him sitting out a little bit last season really matured him a lot and made him appreciate the chances that he gets and the opportunities, and I think that humbled him a lot and made him grow up.  But, to answer your question, I don’t think he could have done it three or four years ago.  I think he did a really good job of dealing with everything on the track and off the track and I’m pretty proud of him for that.”

 

RYAN BLANEY— HOW IS IT WORKING WITH BRAD AND JOEY?  “They’ve been great to me.  I drove for Brad.  Honestly, Brad is the one who kind of got me into the NASCAR scene driving his trucks in 2012.  It was him and a Penske Racing deal, but he’s one that kind of gave me my shot, so I’ll always look at Brad as a mentor to me and he’s always been very open.  Whenever I’d have any questions about trucks or XFINITY cars or Cup cars – whatever – I was just kind of getting started.  Nowadays I don’t ask a ton of questions because you’ve been in it for a while and you don’t want to bug those guys, but I feel like we work very well together – us three and even Paul with him coming in.  I think that’s what makes us a very strong team is the drivers work very well together.  We all get along.  The crew chiefs on every team get along as well, so you have to have that if you’re gonna compete with these four, five, six-car teams out there.  I feel like they’ve been great to me and I appreciate all their help, but I feel like everybody working together is what’s going to make it work and I feel like we do that very well.”

 

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO BUBBA INITIALLY?  “We grew up racing together.  We grew up racing these Bandolero cars when we were 10 years old and when you’re that age, him and I are the same age, and when you’re that age and you’re kind of just getting started it’s mostly just about making friends at the race track.  There’s not a lot of people your age that young at the track, so he and I became friends that early, and then we kind of split up when he did late model stuff.  I did a different form of late models and then he was doing K&N stuff when I was in trucks and we lived really close to each other and then we just became friends both on and off the track.  He’s a very humble guy and I appreciate friends who have been there since the beginning, since you’ve been really, really young, and I feel like you can appreciate them.  They’re not just ones that come and go.  They’ve been friends since your childhood and I like to try to keep as many of those as I can, but he’s just someone I’ve known for a long time that we just happened to race together.  It’s cool now to be racing together on Sundays and he’s just a childhood friend, which is good.”

 

HE’S IN A SIMILAR SITUATION YOU WERE DRIVING FOR PETTY LIKE YOU DID WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS.  HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM ABOUT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF BEING ON A TEAM THAT HAS BEEN IN THE SPORT SINCE IT STARTED?  “That’s a good comparison.  I thought it was cool when we were both driving the 21 and 43 last year in a few races.  I sat back and I told him, I’m like, ‘Man, we’re driving two of the most iconic cars in NASCAR.  That’s really, really special that we’ve been able to do that.’  But I think he can have a huge impact on that race car and that team.  I can’t think of any better driver to put in that thing.  I remind him.  I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re driving for Richard Petty and that’s really special.  You should definitely appreciate that race team, that history, what Richard has done in the sport – him and Inman.’  I know they’re really excited.  I’ve gotten to talk with Richard and Inman a little bit and they’re happier than ever, I feel like with him and the job he’s doing.  I think the sky is the limit for him and that race team as far as growing that team to where it needs to be, and I wish him the best.  I think they’re gonna do good.  They looked really good today and hopefully they can keep improving and getting better.  That team seems to be really good.

 

RYAN BLANEY “I like Drew, who is the crew chief on that car.  I think he does a great job also, but I think they can do some really great things with that team and grow it to where I don’t think it’s ever been before in recent years.”

 

HAVE YOU AS A TEAM DISCUSSED THE RISK VS. REWARD IN SHORT-PITTING WITH THE NEW PIT CREW RULES HERE?  “Yeah, that’s a good question.  Yes, we have.  That’s gonna be huge this weekend.  Before here you would short-pit like crazy and you’d maybe be able to make it up, but with these pit stops being about three second slower, that’s a lot of time you have to make up from short-pitting and there’s a lot more time of risk of going a lap down.  That’s not only here, but that’s Pocono and other places like that to where you really count on that stuff.  We have weighed the pros and cons about it and we’re gonna keep talking about it here over the next couple of days before the race.  You won’t see as many people doing it as drastically I don’t think just because you could go a lap down or the caution comes out.  There’s just so much more time you have to make up.  The tires are huge here, but when you add three or three-and-a-half more seconds that’s a lot, so we have thought about that a lot here over the past month.  We’ve been thinking about it for here and other race tracks like that where you short-pit, so that will be a game-changer come Sunday for sure.”

 

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