NASCAR Cup PR Ford Performance NASCAR: Phoenix 1 (Ryan Blaney Media Availability)

Ford Performance NASCAR: Phoenix 1 (Ryan Blaney Media Availability)

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NASCAR CUP SERIES
PHOENIX RACEWAY
FANSHIELD 500
FORD PERFORMANCE DRIVER MEDIA AVAILABILITY
FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2020

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Tarkett Ford Mustang

YOU ARE STARTING THE DAY OFF WITH SOME PRETTY GOOD NEWS, SIGNING A CONTRACT EXTENSION TO STAY IN THE NO. 12 CAR WITH TEAM PENSKE. TALK ABOUT THAT NEWS THIS MORNING: “I am really excited to get that out there. It is something that we have been working on for a little while through the off-season. It is nice to finally announce it and all that stuff. I am really excited to continue with the Penske group for years to come. They have been a great group to me. Mr. Penske, I don’t know that I could ever thank him enough. It is nice to continue with that whole team. I have met some great people along the way and I look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

YOU ARE OFF TO A GOOD START, AT WHAT POINT DURING THE SEASON CAN YOU ESTABLISH THAT YOU ARE IN A GOOD SPOT? “I like to say all of that right now. We have fired off really good but you have to keep your cars up to date and keep them fast. It will be interesting to see where we stack up with everybody with this low downforce package. That will be a big testament to see. You get to the playoffs and there are a lot of short tracks. This will be a big test this weekend. Honestly, it has been nice to start off the year good. We didn’t get the finishes we wanted but to be running up in the top-three every single race and working with a new team, that is just great. You are going to build off of that as Todd (Gordon) and I get used to each other and things like that. There are a couple things I wish I could have taken back last week that hurt us toward the end of that race. That is just learning. We are doing our job right and the finishes will come. We are working together but the big thing is staying on top of it all year. Teams will come around, ones that might be struggling right now will figure it out and be good and we will have to keep getting better ourselves. You can never be truly satisfied with where you are running because teams will continue to get better. You have to stay with the group.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN TRYING AN OPEN-WHEEL CAR ONE DAY? “Yeah, there are really only a couple motor vehicles that I would not want to drive. Like, MotorGP stuff, those guys are nuts. You don’t drive those, you ride them. SuperCross, I would rather be on four wheels. But any kind of car, I think if you talk to a lot of racecar drivers, they are fascinated by any type of vehicle and you respect the people and what they do and the challenges that come with it. There are similarities and differences. It is really cool that Jimmie (Johnson) will be testing and IndyCar. He has talked to me a little about that and that is awesome. There is interest. I would love to do like a driver team swap day with the IndyCar guys come run our cars for a little bit and we could drive IndyCar. That would be cool. It is something I would love to do. I have to figure out this stock car thing first and then maybe have more leverage to do something like that and mess around with it.”

CAN YOU SAY HOW LONG YOUR CONTRACT EXTENSION IS FOR? “Multi-year.”

WHY SIGN NOW AND NOT WAIT AND TEST THE WATERS A LITTLE BIT TO SEE WHO ELSE MIGHT BE INTERESTED? “We started working on this thing in the off-season. Even though we had pretty much a full year left on our deal before my current one was up, I was really happy with where I was at. I love the people I am around and working with all the teams. I feel like I owe so much to Roger (Penske) for what he has done for me. I just didn’t really see myself, right now, anywhere else. There are a couple doors open, a couple seats open with other teams but I didn’t talk with any other teams. If I was approached by another team I don’t even know if I would want to talk to them because I am so happy with where I am at and so loyal to Roger. My mindset was if they would have me back I would love to be back. It was great that both of our minds were set on that.”

HOW GOOD WAS IT TO SEE RYAN NEWMAN LAST NIGHT AND TO HAVE HIM BACK HERE AT THE RACETRACK TODAY? “Yeah, we did a Ford team building event at the Arizona State football stadium last night and Ryan showed up. We had no idea that he was going to show up. We were having dinner and he walked in. That was great. That was the first time I have seen Ryan personally. I think the first time a lot of us had seen Ryan. That was really cool to see. We sat and talked, the whole Ford group, for an hour, hour-and-a-half once he got there. We talked about a lot of stuff. It was nice to see him. He is full Ryan Newman caliber and it is great to see. It was cool to hear some of the process that he went through and some of the doctors that worked on him. They were very extensive with him and he has been passing everything with flying colors which is unheard of and great to hear. It was nice to see him and sit down and talk to him a lot about multiple things from how the process of what happened to where we can go in the future to keep improving the safety aspects of these things. There was a lot of insight going on and a lot of conversation around that table of some things we should talk about and things like that.”

GIVEN YOUR INCREDIBLE START TO THE SEASON ON THE TRACK WITH HOW YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO GET TO ATLANTA NEXT WEEK? “I am excited. Our 1.5 mile stuff has been pretty good. The 88 has been really strong. He was strong at Vegas and Fontana too. They definitely have it figured out right now. I definitely think we are right there with them. My focus is this weekend and trying to figure out this low downforce stuff and where we stack up. We will start to figure out next week on Monday. It has been nice to start the season well but this weekend is very important. Not only is it the championship race but the first weekend with this low downforce stuff and seeing how we can kind of go back to what we used to be two years ago and figure it out where everyone is.”

YOU ARE KIND OF THE FIRST DOMINO TO FALL CONTRACT WISE, DO YOU ANTICIPATE THINGS STAYING STATUS QUO WITH OTHER DRIVERS OR THINGS GETTING KIND OF CRAZY? “I don’t pay attention to it to be honest with you. I worry about my deal. I look for tweets from you all to figure that stuff out. You guys usually know about it way before I do. There are a lot of great seats open. A lot of things up in the air with drivers retiring or their deal being up. There is always that silly season and rumors and stuff like that. It is nice to have our deal so that I am out of that conversation. It will be nice not to have to answer questions about it and save them for those guys.”

DO YOU PAY ATTENTION NOW THAT YOU ARE LOCKED UP THOUGH? “If something comes out I will be like, ‘Oh, that is neat.’ But I am not going to pry. That is their personal business.”

DID THE DYNAMIC OF BRAD (KESELOWSKI) ALSO BEING A FREE AGENT OR THE 48 BEING OUT THERE CREATE ANY URGENCY FOR YOU TO GET YOUR DEAL DONE? “There wasn’t any urgency at all. We took our time on it to make sure everyone was happy, from my side to the Penske side, to make sure everything was fair. That is none of my business, the Brad situation. I have loved having him as a teammate and he has done a lot for me too. He is the one that got me started in his trucks which led to the Penske Xfinity and Cup cars. It has been great to have him as a teammate and as a boss when I started. As far as that other stuff goes, there was no urgency for me. As far as Brad’s situation, I don’t know anything about it. It is his deal, not mine.”

WHAT DO YOU DO IN A MANUFACTURER TEAM BUILDING EVENT IN A FOOTBALL STADIUM? HOW DOES THE DYNAMIC WORK WHEN YOU THEN HAVE TO COME BACK HERE AND TRY TO BEAT THEM ON THE TRACK? “Yeah, Ford does a good job of trying to keep everybody pretty close. We are all competitors but at the same time we drive for Ford and it is very important to try to get them to victory lane. We have done multiple things. This time we were at the ASU football stadium, which a bunch of drivers playing football sounds hilarious. We did a competition, a throw, punt and field goal kick competition. I won the field goal competition. I hit a 35-yarder. I am pretty proud of that. My leg is sore today, but I did it. LaJoie is a pretty good athlete. He won the throwing competition. Surprisingly enough, Cole Custer won the punt competition. I don’t know why I said it was surprising, he seems like a good athlete. But that is what we do. Just kind of hang out with the drivers and the Ford Performance guys and things like that. Get everyone closer. We have dinner and things like that. It is just something that they do to bring everyone together, which I think is good.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THE PJ-1, SPECIFICALLY IN TURNS 3 AND 4 WILL AFFECT THE HANDLING OF THE RACECARS? “I don’t know. They moved it down a lot, especially in 3 and 4 like you said. To where it is almost right in the second lane. If you miss the bottom by a few feet I think your rights are going to be in it. I haven’t personally seen it but I have seen photos of it when they sent it out to us this week. I think you are going to run in it a lot, especially with this low downforce package. I know it won’t be as hot Sunday as it is today but I do think you are going to run in it. I think you will be going slow enough through the corners that it will be an option. They are trying a lot of things to make the racing a little better here and I think the low downforce package is a step up but you have to do more. Especially since this is now the championship race, it is a big testament of how they are going to prepare the track also, not only how the cars are. I think it is good that they played with it. If it doesn’t work they will change something up. At least they are trying something and listening to people. It is a good option to try. Why not?”

WHERE DO YOU EVEN START TO TACKLE THIS WEEKEND? DO YOU START IN ONE PLACE AND YOUR TEAMMATES START ELSEWHERE? “I think definitely closer to your 2018 setup. This is the closest our cars have been since that year. So yeah, you are starting close to there. As far as the 2, 22 and 21, we are not vastly different. We all have our different setups and things like that but it is nice to have a bunch of teammates so that if you go in a direction that doesn’t work or are struggling, that is the good thing about having teammates. Don’t fire it off into 1 as hard as you did last year. You don’t want to be driving a coup around there on lap one. You will be lifting a lot earlier than what your recent memory is telling you to. I think it is good. You just start closer to where you did a couple years agon because it is the most recent one you have with close to this package. Then you figure out what the PJ-1 is going to do. I am sure we will get running in it. Maybe a little bit in practice. It is hot enough where that stuff seems activated. The bad thing about that stuff out here is there is so much dust out here that it just sort of cakes that stuff and sits in it. It might take a little bit for that to kind of get clean but I think we will get in it maybe a little bit today. The Xfinity guys will definitely run in it tomorrow. Maybe even the ARCA folks today. Not sure. We will see.”

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