Ryan Blaney has been no slouch on restrictor-plate tracks early in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
Since becoming Wood Brothers Racing’s full-time driver in the No. 21 Ford in 2016, Blaney’s worst finish on a superspeedway was 19th in the 2016 Daytona 500.
Since then, he earned a ninth-place finish in last year’s spring race at Talladega Superspeedway, 14th at Daytona in July and an 11th at Talladega last fall.
To top it all off, Blaney finished second to fellow Ford Performance driver Kurt Busch in this year’s Daytona 500.
On Friday at Talladega, Blaney talked about a variety of topics, including restrictor-plate racing, working with Team Penske and even Star Wars.
Building on Ford's dominance
Between Kurt Busch's win in the 2017 Daytona 500 and Team Penske's recent dominance on superspeedways Blaney is optimistic that he another strong run for Ford, but there’s definitely more room for improvement.
“I feel like we do a B-grade job at it,” Blaney said. “It’s a matter of getting that little extra more. I feel pretty comfortable.”
Team Penske has been strong lately at restrictor-plate tracks, as Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX) and Joey Logano won at the 2.66-mile superspeedway last fall.
Blaney feels having the opportunity to work with the organization is an advantage for him.
"I feel like in the past four or five years Brad (Keselowski) has been one of the best plate racers out there, especially the past two years," Blaney said. "Joey Meier, his spotter, is great at predicting runs and things like that. Being a teammate with Brad and watching what he does has really been helpful to me."
Blaney shed light on the fact that it’s not luck that propels drivers at Daytona and Talladega to race wins.
“I feel like coming to these races that it’s up to fate and it’s lucky, you really can’t control your destiny,” Blaney said. “You really can control what you do here more than people realize. There’s people winning these races that win them all the time and there’s a reason for that. They’re not lucky time after time. They know what to do and they know how to get up front. We haven’t mastered that.”
It's no secret that Blaney is a huge Star Wars fan.
Just in time for Thursday's Star Wars Day, Blaney made cool video with FOX NASCAR's Daryl Motte which recaps the entire movie series in two minutes.
“I was driving my bus somewhere and we were just shooting me in my motorhome and they were like, ‘Hey, I want you to just recap these films”, which was great," Blaney said. "I had no problem doing it. Something I enjoy if you didn’t know. I think it turned out really well."
The next generation
Blaney is one driver in a deep pool of talented young drivers who have a bright future in the Monster Energy Series.
Thursday, Blaney, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott were in New York City to promote Sunday's race at Talladega and the sport in general.
He feels that's what drivers need to do in order to draw the younger crowd to NASCAR.
"I enjoy that stuff and trying to grow the sport back to a younger fan base," Blaney said. "And I feel like that’s a big responsibility of ours. Whether that’s us four that were in New York yesterday to Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon who have been in it a little bit, they’re still mid-20’s. They’re still really young. So, I do feel like we’re obligated to build that younger fan base up, and what better way to connect with them than with people their same age.”
Needing a good run
So just how likely is it that Blaney earns his first career Monster Energy Series race win this weekend?
Blaney is confident he has the potential to be up front when it counts, but he’s just focused on earning a much-needed good result.
“We need a good run to be honest with you,” Blaney said. “The last two weeks have been rough finish-wise. I feel like we’ve had pretty okay cars, we’ll just try and not get into trouble and get back on track.”