Both Dave Blaney and his son Ryan are taking big steps in the New Year, with Ryan stepping into a full-time Cup ride and Dave taking a bit of a different path, stepping more fully back into his dirt track racing roots.
“This is a big step for Ryan going full-time with the Wood Brothers 21 car and with Team Penske,” Dave Blaney said of his son’s recently announced opportunity. “But there have been lots of big steps along the way here for Ryan. The first big step was getting a great opportunity with Team Penske and Brad Keselowski’s truck team in 2012.”
“The next big step was to get into the XFINITY car and then came the huge step of moving to the Wood Brothers’ car last year.”
“And now another step is running full-time. It’s big steps all the way. It’s a big leap for any young driver to do all that.”
Although he refuses to take any credit for it, Blaney also acknowledged that his son’s calm demeanor has helped him take the steps in his career that have led to his Sprint Cup racing opportunity.
“Ryan does have a good head on his shoulders and a bit of a mild-mannered approach,” Blaney said. “He doesn’t run a million miles an hour until he hits something. He’s never been that way.”
“So, that’s helped him through this process because he doesn’t have big setbacks. He is consistent so he doesn’t lose confidence and his team doesn’t lose confidence in him. That part has served him pretty well and that will continue to be that way.”
While dad Blaney acknowledges that he has been there to guide his son during his rise in racing, he also credits others, such as the Team Penske drivers, as well as his new crew chief for what will be his next steps in the New Year.
“I think the main thing is Brad took a liking to him and put him on his team and took him under his wing,” Blaney said. “Hanging around with Brad, Joey (Logano), everybody at Team Penske, there are a lot of smart people over there. They have definitely molded him into the driver that he is becoming.”
“I also really like Jeremy (Bullins, crew chief),” Blaney said. “I’ve known him for a while. I think he’s got a lot of desire, just like Ryan. He is out there to prove himself as well.”
“Sometimes you wouldn’t think a pretty new crew chief and a pretty new driver is the way to go. But I think in this case it really is, especially since they have Team Penske to fall back on with their drivers and crew chiefs.”
“Jeremy and Ryan are two talented guys and together I think they will work well.”
While dad Blaney plans to be at as many of his son’s races as possible, he too is taking big steps in his racing. His big steps, however, are in a different direction than Ryan’s as he steps back to concentrate more fully on his dirt track racing career.
“I think I’m planning on being at about half of Ryan’s races this year,” Blaney said. “Part of that is that I’m going to race sprint cars myself on a part-time basis along with that.”
“I think I have a few years left in dirt racing so I don’t want to miss that. I’ve had my own team the last couple of years but I’ll be driving for Dan Motter this coming year. He’s got a national team, a top team, and he’s wanting to cut back to a part-time schedule. So, that works for both of us.”
One step that both father and son share is the desire to make it into Victory Lane and to celebrate that accomplishment together. Yet that is something that Dave Blaney is reluctant to even mention for fears of jinxing it.
“I don’t even want to say anything out loud,” Blaney said. “If I say what I think is going to happen, well I just can’t go there. I do have a feeling of what is going to happen. I think it’s going to be really good for Ryan.”
“And I am excited about having Chase Elliott in the 24 car and Ryan in the 21 car. I think that’s going to be a cool Rookie of the Year race. And then with Chris Buescher in Cup as well as a rookie, that is going to be something.”
Most of all, Blaney is humbled to even think about that next steps for his son and his own racing career.
“I sit with Ryan and think this is incredible that he is taking this next big step in his career,” Blaney said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
“He’s going to step up and have a really good year. And I’ll be there for it.”