Wood Brothers Racing driver and NASCAR Cup rookie Ryan Blaney has been universally liked among NASCAR fans. The young driver, son of former Cup competitor Dave Blaney, has been relatively quiet off the track, instead preferring to speak with some great finishes.
That changed last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Blaney was competitive early running inside the top five but faded. He was mired deep in the field and took his frustrations out on the radio. At one point, his target was NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“My (Expletive) tires are gone, because the (expletive) 88 car is a dick,” Blaney told his crew.
Soon social media was lit with fans of the “Junior Nation” defending their driver. It also included Earnhardt’s new wife Amy:
“Well, lil Blaney doesn’t get to come over and play for a while,” she tweeted.
Well, lil Blaney doesn’t get to come over and play for a while https://t.co/hCz6GBLZap
— Amy Earnhardt (@AmyEarnhardt) March 19, 2017
In the days after the race, Earnhardt finished 14th, Blaney 23rd, Earnhardt talked about Blaney, who it turns out have a connection away from the track.
“He rents the house that (Brad) Keselowski used to live in that I sold to Brad,” Earnhardt said on his weekly podcast. “So he comes over and he hangs out, we drink a little beer after a race or two. Not as often as we would like, but we do spend some time hanging out. … He has an (all-terrain vehicle) or something so I let him ride the trails on the property
He added that he and Blaney are still friends.
“We get along great,” Earnhardt said. “I’m happy for him (and) excited about his future. He’s one of the good guys, but I don’t know what that’s all about. He said he was hot in the car, and that when he’s hot, he just can’t control himself.”
The temperature at Phoenix was in the 90s with temps nearing 140 degrees in the racecar Sunday.
Friday Blaney met with reporters at Auto Club Speedway site of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 and said he met with Earnhardt after Phoenix.
“We talked about it after the race,” Blaney said referring to the incident. “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.”
Blaney said for the most part, he avoided social media this week.
“I didn’t go on Twitter for a long time,” he said. “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,” he added. “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.”
Temperatures for Sunday are expected to be in the mid-70s.