Ford Performance NASCAR: NCS Watkins Glen (Ryan Blaney Media Availability)

YOU SIGNED AN EXTENSION THIS WEEK WITH TEAM PENSKE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU AND YOUR CAREER? “It is great to announce that and awesome to continue with Penske. They have been amazing to me over the last 10 years. I got talking to RP (Roger Penske) about how it has been 10 years since I first walked in the door in the early fall of 2012. Time flies, that is for sure. It has been a really cool 10 years and I am looking forward to continue that on for a long time. It is great to get that out there, obviously the silly season side of it, it is nice to not be in those talks and have a home because they have been like family to me and I look forward to carrying on with them.”


HOW DO THE ECONOMICS OF THE NEW TV DEAL AFFECT YOUR CONTRACT EXTENSION? “I mean, those were small discussions when we started talking about the extension and stuff like that. I don’t know many details about the TV deal. You hear things here and there but nothing is really set in stone yet and I don’t think they start to open the bidding wars for those for a little bit. That was a little part of our conversations but I think it is still early enough before that deal gets signed or whatever, the TV stuff, that it wasn’t a huge factor in my decision making with the team. We just came to terms and we were both very happy with them and that didn’t play a huge deal. I am excited to see where the TV stuff ends up though. I think that is something everyone is looking forward to.”


FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS YOU ARE TRYING TO LOCK YOURSELF IN THE PLAYOFFS WITH TWO KIND OF WILD CARD RACES. WHAT IS THE APPROACH HERE WITH JUST TWO RACES LEFT? “Honestly it is the same mindset as the second or third race of the year. It is just the time of year as to why it gets talked about more, obviously. You always want to win races and do well in stages and beat everybody else. There is really no way to approach it any differently. You just try to do the best you can and maximize your day. That is all we can do. We can’t control anyone else’s day. I can’t control Martin’s (Truex Jr.) day, he can’t control mine or anyone else in the field. You just focus on yourself the best you can and go out and try to do what you normally would do and try to figure out a way to win the race and do well. At the end of the day, if we do our job to the best of our abilities, if it works out great and if it doesn’t then that is just the way it falls. The biggest thing we can do is just worry about our group.”


WHAT KIND OF RYAN BLANEY ARE WE GOING TO SEE ON TRACK THE NEXT TWO WEEKS AND HOW IS THAT ANY DIFFERENT THAN THE REST OF THE SEASON? “I don’t know. I don’t plan on changing my name any time soon. The same name will be on the door. I think you might get in spots where you will be a little more aggressive at times but that is just a given. It just depends on the situation you are in. Like last week at Richmond, I spent no time passing Martin. I immediately put the bumper to him because I am not spending any time. You aren’t wrecking people but you are more aggressive in wanting to get ahead of him to try to set yourself up. It is just situational. I don’t think you will see a huge change. But I will talk to you all if there is a big change, I am sure I will.”


FOR A LOT OF GUYS THIS IS A LAST-DITCH EFFORT WITH DAYTONA LOOMING. HOW DO YOU FEEL LOOKING AT DAYTONA NEXT WEEK WITH ALL THE SUCCESS YOU’VE HAD THERE? “I feel good about both of these weekends. As good as you can feel. I enjoy coming here and look forward to it. I am excited to see what we’ve got here in a little bit. Our speed at Indy was really good. This place is different than Indy but there are things you can take away from it and apply that make you excited. Daytona, you never know what can happen. We have had success there in years past. The 500 this year our cars were fast but you never know what is going to happen. You can get wiped out in someone else’s mess and there is nothing you can do about it. You have to accept going into that place that it might happen. We will see. We just need to stay in both of these races. Stay in the game. That is all you can plan on doing.”


SO ARE YOU MORE NERVOUS? DO YOU LOSE A LITTLE MORE SLEEP THIS WEEK? “I have slept great this week. No different than any other time. You can’t stress yourself out about it. It is either going to happen or it isn’t, whether you make the playoffs or not. There are only two choices, two options. You can’t stress out about the negatives if you don’t make it. If you stress yourself out about that then your mind is set on that you aren’t going to make it. You just have to have an open mind about anything can happen and you just have to do your best. I haven’t lost any sleep and haven’t really worried about it and I think the same goes for all the guys on our team. They have been really even-keeled about it and they understand that we just have to do our best and this team is fast enough to go do it and make it. We just have to control what we can control which is good. I enjoy how everyone’s mindset is the same. I think that is how it should be.”


HOW DO YOU FOCUS ON WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO WHEN AT SOME POINT YOU CAN BE OUT OR AT ANOTHER POINT YOU CAN BE IN. HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT ON SUNDAY? “Jonathan and I talked all week about what we are thinking strategy-wise and when we want to stop, what we want to do in the stages, but at the same time you have to be willing to switch that up depending on how cautions fall and things like that. I think Jonathan for sure, and we have talked, you are going to be aware of what the 19 is doing. If they are going for stage points or setting themselves up to win the race. It is kind of how fast your car is. If you feel you have a car fast enough to win, you are going to set yourself up for the end of the race and try to win the race. If you don’t think you can win then maybe you go for the stage point route and see where you can claw your way back to in the last stage. Some of that is situational. He and I have talked about some plans and strategies and whatever spot we are in. Hopefully, we get the right one. That is all you can hope for.”


TO BE ON THE SAME TRACK AS KIMI RAIKKONEN, A DRIVER OF HIS CALIBER WITH HIS HISTORY. YOU JOKED ABOUT SITTING IN THE SAME SEAT AS HIM IN HERE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ON THE SAME TRACK WITH HIM? “Yeah, it is a special seat. I might take it with me. It is cool. When they announced that I was looking forward to it because I think it is really healthy for us as a sport to have all these different drivers from other motorsports that want to come in and try it. Kimi and all these different guys who want to try their hand at it. I look forward to racing with him. I was a big fan of his as a kid and enjoyed watching him race. His demeanor is very awesome and hilarious. I love watching his interviews and things like that. I think it is really cool and I think it grows our sport and is great what TrackHouse is doing with that program of their is. I think it is really smart and a great program. I think it is a healthy thing for our sport. I hope he has fun tomorrow.”


SO MIGHT YOU PUT “ICEMAN 2” ON YOUR DOOR? “I can’t steal his thing. No.”


THROUGHOUT THE CONTRACT NEGOTIATION PROCESS, WAS THERE EVERY THE THOUGHT TO EXPLORE OTHER OPTIONS? “No. Not really. There was really never thought of talking to anybody else. At this stage, I have been there so long and they have been so great to me and a family to me. RP has done a lot for me. Not only RP but Walt Czarnecki, Tim Cindric and Mike Nelson have all done so much for me and have opened up a lot of doors. I really didn’t want to go anywhere. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I am really happy where I am at, surrounded by great men and women and I am really happy that they feel the same and want me around.”


SO MUCH TALK ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS BUT ASSUMING YOU DO GET THERE, WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE CEILING OF THIS TEAM IS RIGHT NOW? “I think our ceiling is pretty high. I look back on our year so far and it has been a really good year. Just the wins haven’t come. We have been really consistent, sitting second in points and it has been a good year just minus the wins which is unfortunate. You would rather have the wins and be inconsistent. You have seen a couple of guys be that way this year. It eases your mind when you are locked in. I feel like if we can get there in a couple of weeks we will have a great shot to make a long run in it because this team is really consistent and found really good speed. It is just a matter of being able to get into the playoffs and see what we’ve got. I have been proud of the year, to make it a great year would be to win a race or two already. Hopefully, we can get that done and not have to worry about if we are going to be in or not come next week.”


DOES IT CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION OF YOUR REGULAR SEASON IF YOU DON’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS? “Yeah, obviously you will be very disappointed if you don’t make it but I haven’t really thought about that honestly. You don’t want to think about not making it when you are focused on that goal. It would be unfortunate but hopefully, that doesn’t happen. We will cross that bridge if it does come.”


AT YOU LOOKING AT STAGE POINTS THIS WEEKEND MORE SO THAN IN THE PAST? “The road courses are a big opportunity to get stage points. I thought we played it really well at Indy of kind of maximizing that day of being able to get a lot of stage points and find ourselves up toward the front of the field towards the end of the race. You never know how it is going to play out here compared to Indy. You never know what people will do with strategy and pitting. You never know what other teams are thinking. This is a great place to do it. I look back at Road America and we were really bad, really far off. But we decided during that race that since we were far off and not going anywhere from where we qualified that we would stay out in stages and ended up winning a stage and clawed our way back to finish 11th by the end of the race. We made a decent day out of it. We didn’t have a car that could win, we didn’t think. At Indy, I think we had a car that could win the race and we played it really well. A lot of that, like I said, is how you get going and what speed is in your car and making those decisions on the fly. But yeah, stage points are obviously really important and we have done a good job at getting those throughout the year to keep us in a decent position but a lot of it is making a decision in the moment. You have a plan but sometimes that plan doesn’t really work out and you have to improvise.”


HOW MUCH HAVE YOU BEEN THINKING ABOUT DAYTONA SINCE THAT IS THE LAST TRACK YOU WON AT AND YOU CAME SO CLOSE TO WINNING THE 500 LAST YEAR? “I have thought about it a little bit. You go back and you watch the 500 and kind of see how that race plays out, watching film from previous races to figure out what you can do better. But I haven’t put a ton of thought in it yet. Just kind of minor stuff of just writing down some things that Josh and I talk about to do things better or watching out for this or that. Sunday night or Monday morning you shift 100 percent focus. Not too much right now.”


WHAT IS IT ABOUT PENSKE THAT ALLOWS FOR SO MANY LONG TERM PARTNERSHIPS? “I think it is really neat. When you said that it takes me back to a wall in Penske of people who have worked there for 10 years and 20-plus years and there are hundreds of people on that list. I think the culture there and how they treat everybody over there. Whether you are a driver, truck driver, or mechanic working the fab shop, they are all the same. They treat everybody with the utmost respect. That initially starts with RP and works its way down to everybody who works for him who have had the privilege and honor of being associated with him. It becomes a culture over there that you just enjoy working there because they treat you so well and with a lot of respect like I said. It is wild. It is really cool to see the commitment of not only people who have worked there but sponsors and partners who have been there for over 20 years. It is amazing. It just shows the kind of precedent that RP puts on all his people who have worked for him of how to treat everybody else. It is the right way to do it, that is for sure. I don’t think it is a coincidence that you have so many people that have been there for 10, 15 and 20 years. That is no coincidence. Roger has made them definitely feel welcome and wants them to work there and they want to do the same.”


DO YOU THINK TOMORROW’S RACE WILL BE AS AGGRESSIVE AS EVER? “Yeah, I think so, to an extent. It is hard to tell but I don’t foresee it being like as aggressive as Indy coming down the end of those races. Even if we get a couple of late-race restarts. The front stretch isn’t the same. At Indy, the front stretch is so wide and you have such a long front straightaway to pile it off into Turn 1. Here it is tougher to get into Turn 1 than Indy. It is not flat. You are downhill and already trying not to wreck. I don’t think you will see that amount of aggression. I don’t know. It is hard to tell. Going into Indy I probably would have thought the same and I was wrong. But I think so, to some extent. I feel like if you have guys up towards the front at the end of the race who haven’t won yet and are on the way outside on points then maybe they will be really aggressive because they have to take every chance they can get. Me and Martin have to do the same. If you are up at the front toward the end of that race with a shot to win, you have to take your chance. You aren’t going to go bowling through three or four guys, at least I am not, but you have to be on the aggressive side and not be the one getting pushed over. Sometimes that is hard to defend. I just don’t know. It just depends on where the cautions fall towards the end. I think you will see the most aggressiveness at Daytona next week for sure.”

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