Ford Performance NASCAR: Richmond (Ryan Blaney Media Availability)

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Ford Performance NASCAR Notes and Quotes

Date: Friday, April 28, 2017

Event: Toyota Owners 400 (Media Availability)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile D-shaped oval)

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, enters Sundays race at Richmond International Raceway in the top-10 for driver points and as one of the hot young names in the sport. Blaney spoke about increased expectations, especially in the light of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement announcement this week.

RYAN BLANEY (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion) — YOU HAVE HAD AN IMPRESSIVE START TO THE SEASON, HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING THIS WEEKEND? “It has been a good start to the year so far. I feel like we have had really fast cars and I feel like all the bad finishes we have had have been with really fast cars but things just went wrong. Whether it is our doing or out of our control. We have to clean that up the best we can. I feel like the biggest thing is that we have had super fast cars. Last week we had a really fast race car and had our own troubles there with the power steering issue. This race track here, honestly I think was our worst last year out of all of them. It will be a big test to see how we are this weekend. Obviously we want to run well for the Wood Brothers in their home state of Virginia. Even though it is a good ways away from where they are from, but still a home state race for them. We want to do well here and I feel like it will be a big test being kind of far off on this race last year. If we can come out and be competitive it will say a lot about our team improving in the offseason on races we weren’t strong at. I am excited to get this weekend started with that car and see what we can do.”

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THE YOUNG GUNS IN NASCAR, OF WHICH YOU ARE ONE, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO PORTRAY TO THE FANS? “I just think it is really neat to be a part of that group. To be with a good team and part of that “young gun” group with Chase (Elliott) and (Kyle) Larson and Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. I feel like we are really lucky to be in that category with a great race team and NASCAR has done a great job of kind of building up the younger race car drivers in this sport. It has been fun to do a lot of that stuff for NASCAR and be a part of all of that with those guys. I know we are doing something next week before Talladega, so that will be a lot of fun. I think it is cool to be a part of that group and in the same category as those drivers. They are great people, great drivers, off the race track they are great personalities as well, so it is nice to just be mentioned in that little group.”

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE DALE JR. ANNOUNCEMENT? “I wasn’t really surprised. You are kind of just going along with what he says. It is a personal choice of his. He has done so much in his career. He definitely deserves the chance to choose what he wants to do, to keep driving or not, he has been able to make that choice. I think there are things he wants to do outside of racing, him and Amy. I know that they are excited for that and seeing what he does next. I am excited to see what he does next. I have been fortunate enough over the last couple years to call him a good friend of mine, be neighbors with him, hang out a bit and talk not only racing but things outside of it as well. That part has been really special. I grew up watching him race and I grew up in the garage seeing him in whatever car he was in, the 8 car or 88 car, and know he is one of the biggest names in our sport. I definitely hate to see him go and leave the driving side of it but I hope he sticks around whether it is in the broadcast booth or things like that. I think he will. You saw Jeff (Gordon) do it and I think Dale is a great person for the sport both in and out of the car. He does a lot of great things that propelled this sport to where it is today. I am sad to see him go but excited to finish out this year with him. That will be really special.”

RIR USED TO BE TREATED WITH A SEALER UNTIL ABOUT 2002 BUT NOT SINCE THE REPAVE. WITH THE SUCCESS OF THAT AT BRISTOL, DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD CONSIDER SOMETHING LIKE THAT HERE?  WHERE  DO YOU FALL ON THAT DEBATE? “Answering the Bristol question first, I feel like this year was a really good race. I don’t know what other people think. Most of it was positive that I saw. I personally thought we were going to be on the bottom the whole race. The stuff they put down was so wide, a lot wider than the fall race last year, and I am happy we were able to move around. You could pass on the bottom or top or shoot the middle sometimes. It gave you three options to get through lap traffic or pass cars. I thought that was great racing. It was better than being married to the top or bottom. If you have two lanes that are equal it is great side-by-side racing and the end of that race was awesome to watch. I rewatched it after the weekend. This place, I don’t think it needs anything like that. This race last year, we were all the way up to the wall and at the bottom. I feel like we could run around anywhere here. Maybe they can consider doing something like that at newly repaved tracks, maybe the upper lane at Texas. That might help that out. I don’t think this place needs any of that. I think it is  a great race track and worn in and you are always searching around for grip.”

HOW HAS THE WOOD BROTHERS SHOP MOVE FROM VIRGINIA TO NORTH CAROLINA AFFECTED THE TEAM OR YOU? “I think they moved down to the North Carolina area in general about seven or eight years ago when they went to Harrisburg. In the offseason we moved to Mooresville by the drag strip. The move from Harrisburg to Mooresville has been super beneficial. It has made the most sense logistically for getting cars back and forth to the Penske shop. I am 10 minutes down the road from the Wood Brothers shop and it is just closer for everybody. I think it has been great to have it close to the Penske group. We get a lot of resources and information from them which has been really beneficial to our team this year. Logistically it was a smart move by the Wood Brothers group.”

JUNIOR HAS GONE OUT OF HIS WAY AT TIMES TO COMPLIMENT YOU ABOUT YOUR ATTRIBUTES IN AND OUT OF THE CAR. WHAT IS THE POWER OF AN ENDORSEMENT FROM HIM ON THAT STUFF? “It can be positive and negative and I have seen both sides of that this year to be honest. From the Phoenix and Martinsville deal to him saying that stuff. He has a very big impact of what people think, whether it is fans or in the garage area. Him talking up younger drivers or the sport in general is going to get his fans excited about the future of going forward even though he won’t be driving next year. What he says will be very important. I know he has always said great things about the sport and drivers in it and been very positive which makes him a great person and great ambassador for the sport. It means a lot to hear him say those things. Like I said, I know he says that about a lot of young drivers and try to set everything up for the future, but it is nice to be a part of that conversation when he speaks. It is pretty nice.”

ONE OF THE THINGS TALKED ABOUT IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROWESS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU LIKE THE MOST AND WHERE MOST OF YOUR FOLLOWERS ARE? “I used to not like social media at all. Four years ago I thought it wasn’t really my thing. Then you kind of get more into the sport and realize how big of a deal it is and how much fans like that side of it and how much information it gives them throughout the weekend, week or year. You realize you have to do it more. I think as you grow you kind of figure out what exactly to put out there and which is beneficial to the fans, to yourself, to your sponsors, team or NASCAR. That has been a lot of fun personally for me. Throughout the recent years, putting some fun stuff out there, whether it is myself, doing things with fans or with friends. I think fans like to see that, especially away from the race track. They like to see what kind of person you are. I feel we are trying to pump that out. I like it. It can be your best friend or worst enemy and I have been on both sides this year. It is a great tool for fans to use to get information about us or NASCAR. We, and by me I mean the team, myself and NASCAR, do a great job putting things out there the fans like. Whether it is podcasts, videos or whatever. It is good. It is going to keep growing. It isn’t going to go away and is something you have to be fairly decent at.”


Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.