Ford Performance NASCAR: Coke 600 Advance Ryan Blaney

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Ford Mustang — FRESH OFF YOUR WIN THIS WEEKEND. WHAT HAS LIFE BEEN LIKE SINCE SUNDAY NIGHT AND DID YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH THE WINDOW NET YET? “Yeah, I think I have an idea. I want to hang it up somewhere. I don’t know. They said they can get it for me, so I think I will save that one. There is a neat story behind it. I am looking forward to getting that and I think I have a decent spot picked out for it right now. Maybe it will move around throughout the years. I am excited to keep that thing.”


HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO RACE AT WATKINS GLEN COMING UP IN A FEW WEEKS NOW THAT KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN HAS ANNOUNCED HE WILL BE IN THAT RACE? “Yeah, the Ice Man. I am a big Kimi fan. I enjoyed growing up watching him race F1 and I remember when he ran a truck for Kyle (Busch). It is really cool. Honestly, I think what Trackhouse did with announcing that was brilliant. I think it is a great idea, especially for however many races they want to run that third car and have some other drivers in it. I think that is really cool. I don’t mind. I think it is great that drivers from other series want to come try out NASCAR. I think it is awesome for the sport. I think it is healthy and it is going to be really cool to get to speak with him. I don’t know how many words he will say to me. He doesn’t seem like a guy of many words. It is just cool. I think it is awesome. We will see how he does. It will be fun.”


HOW MUCH DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO CARRYING THE MOMENTUM FROM TEXAS INTO POSSIBLY WINNING THE 600 THIS WEEKEND? “Anytime you can get some momentum it is good. I think the biggest thing that helps us with momentum is that our whole group, all of Penske, we kind of tried a little something new with our cars at Texas. We have been lacking a little bit of speed. That is something we have been really working hard on trying to find and we came to Texas with a little different idea of how to do things. It seemed to work. I think all our cars were pretty fast. You hope it carries over to other races and tracks and for the 600 this weekend. That was the biggest thing for me, looking back on that race, I thought our cars were really fast and you hope that carries forward.”


HAVE YOU RETHOUGHT ANY OF THE EVENTS OF SUNDAY  NIGHT WITH TAKING THE WINDOW NET DOWN, DOING IT LATER NEXT TIME, THINGS LIKE THAT? “Heck, it isn’t like I put it down two seconds after we crossed the start-finish line. I waited for a whole lap to take it down. That is when I found out it wasn’t over yet. I don’t know. We joked that next time we win I am going to come out the roof hatch. I am not even going to undo my window net. I am not even going to touch the thing. It was a weird deal with the rules and thinking we took the checkered but we joked that if we win another one I will come out the right side or roof hatch just to kind of stick it to everybody. I am not touching that window net. We will see.”


DID YOU HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH NASCAR AFTER THE RACE? “I did. We had a conversation in victory lane about it and they gave me their explanation. First off their ruling on the window net situation and when I got it latched that they deemed it safe and saw that two hands were on the wheel and I was warming my tires up and it wasn’t becoming unlatched. They gave me their explanation on that. Secondly, they gave me their explanation on that they made a mistake and shouldn’t have thrown that caution. They talked to me about both of those things and I thought it was great that Scott Miller did a presser outside the trailer and they explained themselves and admitted their mistake on the caution side of it and probably shouldn’t have thrown it. To me, I appreciated them coming to me and getting their thoughts on things and where they were at. It was a lot more clear to me because I don’t know those things. I don’t know what the caution was for and stuff like that. So they explained everything to me and I appreciated them doing that.”


YOU ARE LOOKING TO BECOME THE 9TH DRIVER TO WIN THE ALL-STAR RACE AND COKE 600 IN THE SAME SEASON. WOULD THAT BE HUGE FOR YOU? “It would be great. That would be awesome to do. Hopefully, we can do that.”


HOW DO YOU THINK KIMI WILL PROBABLY DO AT WATKINS GLEN IN THIS NEXT GEN CAR? “It is hard to tell. I am not sure. I feel like it is going to be tough to just jump in it with 20 minutes of practice. He is an amazing road racer and an F1 champion but that is hard for anyone to do. To jump in a new car. I don’t even think they can go test anywhere with that thing. the rules don’t allow it. It will be tough just jumping in something brand new. Going to a place where he hasn’t run much and try to learn a new car and everything will be tough but he is a great race car driver and I am excited to see how he does. It will be tough for sure. It would be for anybody. It is going to be cool to be around him and all that stuff. It will definitely be tough for him to get going with the limited practice that we’ve got.”


BEN KENNEDY THOUGHT THAT YOU GUYS WOULD BE BRAKING A LOT IN THE CORNERS AT GATEWAY AND THAT DRIVERS WILL LOVE IT. WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING? “I always thought Gateway was a great track and it is a great facility and they do a great job. I think they are very deserving of a Cup race with the way they have grown. They have always hosted good events with IndyCar and Truck and stuff like that. We have been going over some of the Gateway stuff on the sim and I think there are some heavy braking spots and it is a track where you will see us downshifting. That is what it is going to be. There will be a lot of shifting for sure. I think it will be a good place. I am excited to get there because I always thought it was a fun track. I think it will be great for that area and speedway and I think they are very deserving of a Cup race.”


HAVE YOU TAKEN THE WINDOW NET AND PUT IT SOMEWHERE YET OR IS IT STILL ON THE CAR? “I am working on getting it. The car just got back on Tuesday so they are working on getting that thing for me. I think I picked out a good place for it. I am definitely going to want to save that one and maybe frame it. We will see. I am excited that I will be able to get it.”


LOOKING AT THE 600, DO THINK THERE WILL BE CAUTIONS FROM TIRE WEAR AND THAT TYPE OF THING? “It is hard to tell before we get there and see what tire wear looks like in the practices and stuff like that. I hope we don’t have any tire issues. We will see. It is hard to tell until we kind of get a gauge on how they are wearing when we get on track Saturday but I hope there are no issues.”


SUNDAY IS ALSO THE INDY 500. ANY INTEREST IN KEEPING AN EYE ON HOW JIMMIE JOHNSON DOES? WILL YOU BE ROOTING FOR HIM? “Yeah, I definitely make sure I watch as much as I can that day. You can usually watch most of it before we have to go to intros and stuff like that. I look forward to watching that. Obviously I am going to be rooting for Jimmie after my Penske guys, Scott, Joseph and Will. But I will be rooting for Jimmie because it will be really special for him. Talking to him, he has been having a lot of fun up there and doing a pretty good job. I always make sure I watch to see how those guys are doing. Obviously first I want our Penske guys to win but I will be rooting for Jimmie to run fourth. We will see how that goes. It will be a fun time. I hope he really enjoys it. I know he will appreciate that he gets to do that and he is very deserving to get to run the 500.”


WHERE ARE YOU GUYS AT IN TERMS OF CARS? HAVE YOU BEEN TOLD ANYTHING IN TERMS OF BEING CONSERVATIVE OR ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH WHERE YOUR FLEET IS? “We are in a good spot from what I understand. You don’t want to go out and just be reckless and waste cars and stuff like that. At the beginning of the year teams were understandably stressed out but I feel like everything has gotten not as caught up as we want to be but we are getting there. I feel like we are in a good spot. We aren’t completely stressed out if a bunch of cars get tore up.”


IS THIS CAR AN IMPROVEMENT ON AERO TIGHT AND AERO LOOSE? IS THERE SOMETHING YOU GUYS ARE ABLE TO DO WITH THE SETUP TO COUNTERACT THAT? IT LOOKED LIKE AT TEXAS YOU GOT VERY AERO TIGHT BEHIND SOMEBODY. “Texas is so narrow and we aren’t able to get away from people as far as different lanes. You get so aero tight behind people that you have to run the car setup super free if you are in traffic. We were fortunate at Texas that we were kind of in the top three, four of rive all race where we didn’t have to swing big. We didn’t have to loosen it way up because we weren’t in traffic. That is kind of what happened to the 11. That is something you have to balance and it is tough to do. It is hard to kind of find that in between because to be free enough for traffic and drive through the field you are just wrecking loose and you can’t drive these cars that loose in clean air. It has been tough for teams to try to figure out and drivers to figure out where the happy medium is. There isn’t really a happy medium. That has been tough. I think Texas was kind of an eye opener for how these cars struggle when there is a narrower lane. Hopefully we can figure some of that stuff out and move forward to make them a little better in traffic. That is something everyone is working towards.”


HAVE YOU ASKED ROGER PENSKE IF YOU CAN RUN THE INDY 500? “It has been amazing to be with the Penske group because you get to know those guys and talk to those guys and understand the Indy 500. The month of May is very important at Penske. One day I would love to do it and I am with a good group that would be able to do it. I might have to win a championship first to be able to go over and do that. That is the goal. I would love to do it one day. I would love to do the double. That would be really cool.”


YOU HAVE BEEN IN THE TOP TWO POINTS SINCE COTA. DO YOU FEEL OVERLOOKED AT ALL OR DO YOU LIKE SNEAKING UP ON PEOPLE? “I don’t know. Sometimes it is easy to get overlooked. Honestly the last month or so we haven’t had incredible speed and that is something that we are working on. I don’t know. I feel like we just have to be up front a little bit more and win races. Even if we start winning races I think we will probably still be overlooked and this is just kind of what it is about.”


LOOKING BACK TO WHEN YOU WERE TESTING AT CHARLOTTE IN THE WINTER. WHAT STOOD OUT TO YOU ABOUT HOW THIS CAR PERFORMS THERE COMPARED TO THE PREVIOUS GENERATION OF CAR? “I never got to test the low downforce package at Charlotte. I was on the high spoiler day. I didn’t get to do the lower one. Comparing last year’s package to what I ran in the Next Gen car, the Next Gen car had more drag and was going slower down the straightaways. It had a lot of the same characteristics that is has now like if it steps out it is easy to spin out because there is no side force on the thing. There is no quarter panel on them. The biggest thing is the dirty air side of it. The cars have to drive a little bit better in traffic for it to be an improvement. Do they do that? To an extent, I feel like they do a little bit but there are some things I think are better and some things I think are worse. Hopefully, Charlotte gets wide. That will be the biggest thing that will help that track is if it gets widened out and we can go run the wall. If not it is just going to be fighting for the bottom and stuff like that and it will be a long night. I hope it gets wide out there. That is when this car is really good when you can run the fence, the bottom, and the middle and get some air under your nose. That is when the racing is really good with this car like at Fontana and Vegas where there are multiple lanes to go and it is easy to make mistakes and that is what makes racing good. If it is easy for drivers to mess up and make mistakes and be on the verge of wrecking, that is when you see people go forward and backward and it takes a wide track to do that. If it isn’t wide, like Texas, people just park it on the bottom and you can’t pass them. You have to have a wide track.”


WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE TEAM WAS LACKING RECENTLY? YOU REFERRED TO SPEED, BUT WAS THERE MORE TO IT? “I would say the last month or so we have been okay. In some of the circumstances, I feel like we didn’t finish as good as I thought we could have. Like we went to Kansas and I thought we could have ran fifth probably at best but we got put in a bad spot on the last restart and ended up outside the top-10 and then I hit the wall. Dover was kind of the same thing. We were running pretty good up towards the front and we had some pit road issues and had to go to the back. That is something that some of it is circumstantial but you want your cars to be a little faster because it makes everything a lot easier when your car is faster.”


TALK ABOUT YOUR FUNDRAISER THIS WEEKEND: “Yeah, thanks for asking. We had our Ryan Blaney Family Foundation event. I thought it went great. A lot of people came out and we had a lot of great partners that really pitched in. Dex Imaging was a huge one. Body Armour, Flag & Anthem, they did an amazing job and really pitched in. Then we had a lot of other partners there like Ford, Advance Auto Parts who were both out there. UPMC was out there as well. We had two of the fellows out that are currently going through the program and one day they will open their own clinics to help treat these concussion issues. We had Dr. Mickey Collins out who treated my dad and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and a lot of people. He has been revolutionary in the concussion world and helping people out. That was a great event and I can’t thank everybody enough for coming out. We raised a lot of money for those guys. It was a lot of fun. It was pretty stressful because that was the first event we have put on. We have been trying to do something the last couple of years and it just hasn’t happened. We build that Ford Bronco three years ago and auctioned it off at Barrett Jackson but that wasn’t an event. That wasn’t having a couple hundred people out and entertaining them. My mom and sister and a lot of people are involved in that in my family with setting that up and they were the reason that was possible. It was a fun event, for sure. It all went to a good cause.”


THERE HAVE BEEN 11 WINNERS THIS YEAR. DO YOU THINK WE WILL GET TO 16? “I think we do. I really think we will get to 16 and you hope you are part of that 16, obviously. Just for that reason, I feel like there are people who haven’t won yet that are really close to winning and have cars and teams that can win any given week. You saw it at Kansas. Kurt (Busch) has been good all year but they haven’t shown that speed all year. He was brutally fast at Kansas. That is one of those things were you have a guy that is 20-something in points and they hit it right and go win the race and that is someone below me in points that jumped me now. That can happen any week that a team finds something where maybe they didn’t show that amount of speed all year but they go and win the race. You are going to have to win and I feel like you are going to have to be a winner in the regular season. I could see us getting to 16 and maybe even more than that.”


IS THERE ADDED PRESSURE FOR YOU TO WIN THIS WEEKEND WITH HOW IMPORTANT THIS WEEKEND IS FOR TEAM PENSKE AND THIS BEING A CROWN JEWEL RACE? “It is obviously a big day. I don’t know if there is pressure but you want to win the race because it is a huge race and huge event but I think that comes with every weekend. You understand what you are racing for every weekend and a win is a win, but you also understand that this is a Crown Jewel event. One of the coolest things we could do as a company is win the Indy 500 and the 600. There might be more pressure if one of our guys goes out and wins Indy. We will learn that right before our race and then it will be like, ‘Oh damn, we gotta win tonight to make it a double.’ That would be super cool. I think there might be added pressure once one of those guys win the 500 and we want to make it a Penske sweep. We will see. You just go out and do the best you can and try to treat it like another race. That is how you have to approach it.”

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