Ryan Blaney isn’t exactly known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. In fact, the Team Penske driver is normally calm, cool and collected. Yes, he was excited when he won his fifth career victory Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a young fan was as well, but later in his post-race press conference Blaney got a bit sentimental.
It turns out the Sunday’s win was even more special for Blaney. That’s because just over 20 years ago, on March 11, 2001 Ryan’s dad Dave Blaney came closer than he ever had to winning a NASCAR Cup race.
Dave Blaney made 473 starts in the Cup series over the course of 17 years without a victory. On March 11, 2001 however, the elder Blaney led 70 laps and looked to be in position to score his first Cup win. Until a wheel fell off his Bill Davis Racing Dodge just a few laps before the end.
The racetrack where Dave Blaney came close to winning? Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“Dad was here today in the stands,” Ryan said after winning Sunday. “He texted me today. He said, ‘This is the 20-year anniversary’. He was whipping butt in that Amoco car. The damn wheel fell off his car, ruined his day. He lost the race. He was dominating.
“I said, ‘We’ll win one for the 20th anniversary.’”
“I don’t know how solar cycles line up, every 20 years, I don’t know,” Blaney chuckled. “Happy we were able to avenge that loss on him.”
Ryan then paused a moment and seemed to put his emotions in check before continuing.
“Dad, he’s taught me everything that I know. Like I said, he was here today. He comes to as many races as he can. Just sits in the stands nowadays. Obviously can’t come in the infield.
“He’s always someone I always trusted. Fortunate to have a dad that’s done it all, seen it all. I still go to him for advice about anything. Whether it’s a stern talking to or it’s careful advice, I’ve always enjoyed talking to him, hearing what he’s got to say. Just him being around means a lot. I grew up watching dad race. Now I’m racing full-time in NASCAR. He’s watching me. That’s pretty cool.
“Dad never got the best of opportunities at the Cup level. He drove for some great race teams, Bill Davis, one year at RCR. He was never with a powerhouse group I’d say like Penske or Hendrick or Gibbs. I hated that for him, that he never got that shot.
“He was almost a little bit too old when he got into the sport because he was running Sprint cars for so long. He never got a great shot with an amazing team like I’ve been really fortunate to do.”
“It’s nice to have him here,” he added. “I can’t wait to call him and tell him, ‘I told you so, we got one back for you.’”
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