PHOENIX, Ariz. - Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Quick Lane Ford Fusion, met with media members at Phoenix Raceway prior to qualifying Friday afternoon. Blaney spoke about numerous topics, including the upcoming race weekend.
RYAN BLANEY (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion)
SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A NEW DEAL THAT HAS COME DOWN, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT? “Yeah, it is pretty exciting. We actually did that last year but just announced it yesterday. The folks at BodyArmor Super Drink, we have been a part of their family here and did a neat deal with Mike Trout yesterday with the Angels. We went to the Tempe Diablo stadium and that was really cool to go out there and hang out with him. He is a great guy, a great athlete. Probably one of the best players in MLB right now. They are a great company. The BodyArmor folks are new to motorsports and have loved every second of it. We have had some of them out at Daytona and Vegas last week. Great people from New York and happy to have them on board with us.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE HANGING OUT WITH MIKE TROUT? “It was really neat. I have always watched him play and he is only 25 years old. He is really young and probably the best player in the game right now. He was really interested. We had a car out there and he was able to drive it. I am surprised he fit in it honestly, he is a really big guy. He got in and messed around a little bit and then I got in and burned it down a good bit. He was really interested in it. He didn’t know much about racing but he really wanted to know a lot more about the cars. It makes us feel good as drivers when people and athletes from other sports are really interested in our cars and what we do because we are the same way. We are really interested in what happens with them and their daily activities. That was really neat to learn he is a legitimately nice person and interested in the sport. We will probably never get him out to a race because they play 182 times a year but it would be nice to get him out to one if we can.”
DID YOU FILL OUT A BRACKET? “I didn’t. Not this year. I did a lot of those in middle school and high school but I haven’t been on the bracket train lately. I don’t watch enough college basketball to really know who to pick or not.”
ANY MEMORIES OF YOUR UNCLE DALE? “There are memories. I will watch West Virginia. I have been busy today though and haven’t even seen anyone. UCLA plays later tonight so I am excited to watch that game.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR WITH THE 21 TEAM? “I think we made a lot of improvements. It is definitely very noticeable in the first handful of races this year. It is really early but I really like the way everyone has communicated so far and just the vibe and the way everyone works together around the race track. Whether it is during the week or on the weekends or race day. It is noticeably better. The communication side is a lot better. We brought on Andrea Mueller which I think was a great person to bring on as one of our head engineers. She does a great job coming up with new ideas. Her and Jeremy (Bullins) have worked together before which was a big help. She has been great. There are a couple other guys that are new but I feel like everyone is just meshing well together right now. We are improving every single week and you can’t really get complacent, that is how you fall back. We are always getting better and I feel like everyone is working well together and when that happens you start to see improvement.
YOU ARE TOWARD THE FRONT OF THE GARAGE NOW, WHAT IS THAT LIKE? “It is really nice to be up at the front of the garage. That has been nice. You know, in ‘15, we only ran a partial schedule so we were always at the back. Most of last year we weren’t really towards the front. We were kind of mid-pack all year. It is nice to get a good start and be up towards our teammates and good cars and things like that. It makes you feel a part of the group. Our team deserves to be there. It is not a fluke that we are up here in points. They have worked hard and we have gotten great finishes. I think that motivates everyone to want to stay up there. That has been really big and they have strived off of that to want to stay up there and keep moving forward.”
HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO WINNING? “I feel like last year we were close on weekends but I feel like this year we are starting off a lot closer than what we did last year for sure. Our cars have been competitive enough to win all three races it just was circumstances. It is just about putting a full race together. It is really tough to win one of these Cup races. Everything has to fall your way on the race track and pit road and everything like that. All we can do is try to make the car as fast as we can and do the best to minimize mistakes and take advantage of opportunities. That is all you can do.”
YOUR TEAM ALLIANCE WITH PENSKE, HOW MUCH DO YOU SHARE INFORMATION WITH THEM? “Our relationship is so good that our teams have great communication between each other. Brad, Joey and I have really good communication so we have been fortunate. The Wood Brothers, to have teamed up with the Penske group, they have been really good to us as far as sharing information. We sit in on all their meetings and I feel like a part of the team. At the same time we are still the Wood Brothers, a single-car team on the dragstrip in Mooresville. We have a great relationship with Team Penske and they are a big part of why we run so well.”
WHAT IS THE CLOSEST YOU HAVE COME TO PUNCHING SOMEONE IN THE FACE AFTER A RACE? “Not very close. I am not a very violent person. You never know.”
DO YOU THINK YOU COULD EVER GET THAT UPSET? “Yeah, anyone can get that upset. The Pope can get that upset. It is human nature. Anyone can get that upset to do that, whether you cat on it or not that is your own personal choice you make. It is just passionate racers. People have passion for certain things and sometimes the passion gets the best of you.”
THERE ARE A LOT OF YOU YOUNG GUYS OUT HERE HAVING GOOD SUCCESS. IS THERE A COMMON DENOMINATOR THERE? “Well, it is just nice to be a part of this group. Everyone always talks about the young group coming up and there are six or seven of us that I feel like are with great teams. That is the start of it. Great teams and great organizations surrounded by really good people that have helped us up through the ranks that are still helping us. It is nice to be a part of this group. It is just good communication with drivers being really determined at a young age to wanting to make it and paired with a strong race team. You usually will have some pretty good success. Even though we are doing alright now, the guys that have been in it a long time are still winning the races. It is all about advancing and learning and if you do that you never know what could happen.”
WHAT IS THIS TRACK LIKE IN THIS HEAT AND WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE XFINITY AND CUP CARS? “It has definitely been slick today for sure. Ever since the first Xfinity practice this morning the track has been really slick and it is only getting worse to be honest. Drivers love that. I like that. This track has aged very well and the heat is speeding up that process which is nice. It has been a difficult task today to get your car where you need it and tomorrow for a race practice in the Cup car is going to be pretty tough to get your car dialed in to where you need it for Sunday. It has been nice to bounce back and forth between garages. That is something I haven’t done in a long time. it has been nice to get repetition on the race track. We learn things on the Cup car that we try over there. Whether they work or not, it is nice to have those and try it and try different lines on the race track.”