Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona 500 Media Day (Ryan Blaney)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

Daytona Media Day

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Ford Mustang — YOU SPENT THE DAY AT DISNEY YESTERDAY, HOW WAS IT? “It was fun. We did all the parks yesterday. We had a guy walking us around. I like that stuff. We saw the makings of Star Wars Land. I can’t wait for that. We didn’t get to go there but there is Toy Story Land now and one of the rides you can kind of see over the fence into Star Wars Land and it looks amazing. I wanted to jump over the fence. It opens in December of this year. I might stay down there next year. That would be a good off-season vacation. I will have to go back down.”

PEOPLE ARE SAYING YOU ARE A FAVORITE FOR THE DAYTONA 500. “That is the first time I have heard that. This race has been good to us the last couple of years, running second a couple years ago and led a ton of laps last year and it just didn’t work out for us at the end. I think our speedway cars have always been pretty good. The Penske group and Wood Brothers group does a great job. It is a combination of cars, having a great spotter – Josh Williams is my spotter and he gets better every single year. Having great teammates. All four of us work great together, Paul Menard included. These tracks, more than others, strength in numbers is your friend and we do a great job trying to work together. All the Fords do really. Our group in particular. Hopefully we can just finish one off here. If you can make it to the last 20-30 laps, you are going to be in a spot to try to win it. We have been fortunate to make it to the last 20 laps for the last couple years so hopefully we can do that again and find ourselves in the spot we were in last year, do a couple things different and try to win the race.”

NOT WINNING THE LAST COUPLE YEARS, BEING SO CLOSE, DOES THAT EAT AT YOU? “Not really. I have never really been one to kind of think about things or let it eat at me or anything like that. You kind of get over it pretty quick. That is just the way this sport is. You can’t dwell on something bad that happened because you have another one to look forward to. That is the good part about our schedule. The 500 last year, that sucked for a day, but then you turn around and start to figure out how to win Atlanta. You forget things pretty quick. Last year wasn’t really one that got away, just one that didn’t work out for us. You try to figure out what you can do different in those scenarios and hopefully make better decisions as a driver to stay up there. You can look back and it is easy to do that now but in the moment you are making snap of the finger decisions and you don’t have two seconds to think about what you are going to do. Sometimes you just don’t make the right move. You can’t let it bother you. You have to move on.”

WHAT GOES INTO THE DOMINANCE THE PENSKE GROUP HAS SHOWN AT THESE SPEEDWAYS? “Fast race cars. Roush Yates engines have always been great here. Great drivers. I think Brad and Joey are two of the best plate racers right now and it shows with how many they have won. We all work together and have each others back. At the end of the race we are allowed to go race for it. I think that is the great thing about our company. It is a combination of things but I really think Brad and Joey are really smart and have great spotters and that is what it takes to win these races. I need to catch up with them. They are a little smarter than me, so I need to catch up.”

CAN YOU ASSESS YOUR FIRST SEASON UNDER THE PENSKE UMBRELLA AND DO YOU THINK THINGS MIGHT BE SMOOTHER THIS YEAR IN YEAR TWO? “I hope so. I thought last year went pretty well. We had some kind of slip away from us and that stunk, but we had good speed all last year. I thought we should have finished higher in the points than what we did. Having that penalty after Texas was bad. Taking 20 points away there and then blowing up running second at Phoenix and finishing dead last really hurt us. We should have finished fifth or sixth in points and wound up 10th. When I was running the 21 car before it was pretty much a Penske car. It was Penske run and the main difference from running the 21 to the 12 last year was I just didn’t get to see Eddie (Wood) or Len (Wood) everyday of every weekend. I go seek them out now to talk to them. I am actually running a Glen Wood tribute helmet this weekend that I am going to give to them after the race. Hopefully it will go a little bit better. We just needed a little bit more consistency. I thought we had the speed, it is just about being consistent and I think that comes with time and figuring out what you need to run up front, not make rookie mistakes, being smarter than being green and just staying on the gas always. As you get older, get more experience, I think you settle down a little and are a little more methodical about things.”

OF THE POTENTIAL CHANGES IN NASCAR, IS THERE ONE THAT INTERESTS YOU? “The new changes in the car is pretty big. I haven’t even had a chance to drive the new cars yet. I will get a full taste of it in Atlanta next weekend. I am curious what will happen there. How are you going to trim your car out at certain race tracks? How much grip and downforce do you want to put in it? In Atlanta, you want a lot of downforce so your car lasts and at Vegas you want to trim it out for speed. It is way different. That will take teams a little bit to get used to. I am curious about that.”

LONG TERM STUFF, SCHEDULING, STUFF LIKE THAT? “I don’t look at that stuff. I just try to figure out how to win races week to week. I don’t have any control in the scheduling. I have no say in it. That is a NASCAR deal.”

YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME CURIOSITY IN THE FUTURE OF THE SPORT. “Yeah, and I know they are talking about trying to go back to the Fairgrounds at Nashville. That would be great. I raced there as a kid. I think a Truck race or Xfinity race there would be really great. I know they are talking to a couple other new race tracks. New manufacturers coming into the sport is another thing they are trying to get. It would be great if we could get five manufacturers in the sport – four or five would be great. They are working on that alot and doing a great job. Being in that driver council you get to sit in on meetings with NASCAR and what they are trying to do and where they are looking. It is going to be fine. They are looking to do great things. I am excited for the future.”

IS IT A RELIEF TO HAVE A TEAM OWNER LIKE ROGER PENSKE, AS COMMITTED AS HE IS TO MOTORSPORTS? “It does. It has been special. Since 2010, part way through that. I have driven for Roger in some form. It has been great to get to know him over those years. He is a great owner and a great human being. It was really special to be with him at his induction ceremony at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That was really cool to be there and kind of present him. You look at the person that he is, not only what he has done in NASCAR but the IndyCar program, Sports Car, a little bit of F1 that he did. The people that have driven for him have nothing but great things to say about him. I wouldn’t want to drive for anybody else. I have been lucky to drive for him most of my NASCAR career. He has done wonders for the sport, wonders for a lot of peoples careers, not only drivers but team members. It is amazing. They have a board in the shop of people that have worked there 20 years, 10 years, and it is amazing to see the people that have worked there 20 years because they don’t want to leave there because Roger is so great to work for and that organization is so amazing.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE DRIVER COUNCIL? IS THERE STILL A NEED FOR IT? IS THERE STILL VALUE TO IT? “I have been on the driver council – I am not on it this year – I have been on it the last two years. The council is great because we would meet with NASCAR probably three or four times a year at-track. We would have meetings on Fridays or Saturdays and it is just great to just sit there and be in a closed off group like that because there is no dumb question. You don’t have to feel self conscious about asking questions or bringing up ideas. Everyone is trying to work toward the greater good. Whether that is rules changes, weekend schedules, fan packages, promotions, everything goes on in there. We have come up with some great ideas. I was probably the least talkative in there because I prefer to listen and I don’t talk a lot in general, but it is good to have that open conversation in a closed off environment where you won’t get judged or feel self conscious about what you are asking. NASCAR has always been very open if you want to go talk one-on-one with them. I can text Steve Phelps or Steve O’Donnell or anyone like that if I have a question or an idea. That is nice. They are very open and I think that has gotten better throughout the years. It is all about communication to try to get things better. I think that is very open which is a good thing.

YOU HAVE LED SO MANY LAPS IN THE DAYTONA 500. IT HAS BEEN A GOOD PLACE FOR YOU. IS THIS A RACE THAT YOU FEEL ESPECIALLY GOOD, HOPEFUL, ENCOURAGED ABOUT RUNNING? “I don’t go into this race more confident than I do at any other race track. You can have amazing runs or not so good runs anywhere. You go in with the same mentality, try to figure out how to do your best as a driver and how to outsmart people to try to win the race. The last two years have been pretty good to us but you never know what can happen. You can get wrecked on lap 10 and go home. You just try to go in and do your best as a driver, as a team. That is all I really want, my team to do the best job they can and if the best job is that we go win the race, great. If the best job we can do that weekend is go run fifth or 10th, then that is all we can do. I don’t have any more confidence here. I just like speedway racing. I know some guys don’t like it as much as others. I have always enjoyed it. I think it is fun and challenging. Maybe I haven’t wrecked hard enough to not like it. I just like speedway racing in general. Obviously this is a special race. I grew up watching my dad race here and it means a lot to me. I respect the heritage and importance of this race and the history behind it. But really my mindset is the same from here to a race at Richmond.”

BUT YOU HAVE DONE SO WELL HERE. “Yeah, we haven’t won yet though. You can lead as many laps as you can, but if you don’t lead the last one it doesn’t really matter.”

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WILL MISS ABOUT RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING? “I don’t know. We will find out how different it is when we go to Talladega and how different that rules package is at speedways. it is hard to tell right now how it is going to change.”

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