Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Charlotte Media Availability Transcript

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Discount Tire Ford Mustang YOU HAVE BEEN PART OF THE USA DOCUMENTARY, CAN YOU GIVE US SOME THOUGHTS ON HOW IT’S GONE?  “It’s been fun and it’s been neat to be able to kind of give a little more access for fans.  I feel like the response from it from fans and everything like that has been pretty positive.  It’s been good and I think they do a good job of balancing the at-track to away track stuff.  Obviously, you have maybe some over-dramatization of some stuff, but that’s with any kind of TV show.  But I think it’s been good.  It’s been a little bit different having people in your house wanting to film you in your home, but I think it’s been pretty good, a good balancing act, so hopefully, like I said, people have enjoyed it and that’s really what it’s all about – giving fans a little bit more access, kind of our week to week stuff, away from track stuff, even a little bit more of a look into our meetings during the weekend.  Not a lot of people know all the meetings that go on and the preparation work, so I think it’s been really good and I’ve been excited that the fans have enjoyed it as well.”


IN YOUR POSITION IN POINTS, ARE YOU FOCUSED ON STAGE POINTS OR THE OVERALL WIN MORE?  “We’re fortunate to be in a decent spot on points, so I think you kind of see how the first stage goes for you.  If you can get a few points in the first stage and kind of see where everyone else is at, then maybe you flip the second one and set yourself up for the win.  I think a lot of that is how you qualify, how the first stage goes – we’ve talked about this all week of different scenarios, but there are a handful of guys – there are a few guys in the playoffs that I think will flip every stage.  You’ve got the 9, the 20, who probably has to win, the 8 has been good – he’s not part of the playoffs anymore, but the 8 has been really good on road courses, so he’ll flip everything.  Our strategy is seeing how the first stage goes and kind of go from there.”


WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO HEAR FROM NASCAR IN THE SAFETY MEETING?  “Really just to hear what they have to say.  I’m happy that we’re having a meeting.  That’s good.  It’s unfortunate the circumstances that have made us have this meeting, but I feel like just go in there and see what they have to say.  I know we have a handful of questions as drivers that we want to ask them about the progression of the safety side of it.  I know they’re working on some stuff, rear clip stuff and things like that.  It’s unfortunate that a couple guys have had to get injured to kind of realize that there needs to be work done, and that’s a long-term thing.  You’re working on rear clips now, but you’re not gonna be able to implement them this year.  That’s a next year thing, so what are the short-term things we can do to try to get these things a little safer, so we’ll just see what they have to say.  It’s nice that they’re working on something, like I said, but it’s just unfortunate a couple guys have gotten hurt before things have gotten worked on.”


HOW PREPARED ARE THE DRIVERS GOING INTO THE MEETING?  “I feel like we’re fairly organized.  We had a meeting last week in Talladega, just the drivers and Jeff Burton about an update on some things – really all things on the safety side and other things.  I feel we’ve got a pretty decent list that hopefully we can cover throughout this meeting, so I feel like we’re pretty prepared and I’m proud of everybody for sitting down and getting prepared.  Jeff does a great job also at really organizing these meetings and our strategy going in, so I think we’re very prepared as a group.”


HOW DETAIL-ORIENTED DO YOU WANT THE INFORMATION TO BE?  “I want all the details possible, every little thing.  I don’t want anything to be vague, so I think that’s everybody.  I’m not the most technical guy out there, but I want to know everything about everything.  Even if I don’t understand it, I want to know everything.”


DO YOU FEEL SAFE GOING OUT IN THE CAR?  “Honestly, I can’t speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself, but it’s not something I think about when I strap in the car.  You think about that stuff during the week and when we have these meetings, ‘OK, how can we improve this,’ but when I strap in the race car I don’t think about my safety, I think about how to go as fast as I can.  That’s just something that I have to do.  If I think about multiple things, I’m not focused on the task at hand, so that’s not something that pops into my head when I strap in, so that’s the best answer I can give you.  That’s just me personally.”


HOW HAS YOUR CONFIDENCE WANED DURING THE SEASON AS THESE SAFETY ISSUES HAVE POPPED UP AND WILL THIS MEETING HELP RESTORE THIS CONFIDENCE OR DO YOU THINK IT’S GONNA MATTER?  “I think it’s gonna matter, for sure.  Personally, for speed and confidence in your equipment, the way that I look at that is confident that my car has enough grip in it to drive it hard.  I have confidence that my team has done everything possible in their power to make me as safe in the race car as they can – from making sure your seat, your headrest, your belts, everything is on par with what it should be and that we’ve done our best job possible.  That’s really where I leave it.  I know they did a great job at getting me all situated where I need to be and then the confidence in the equipment side is that it’s gonna stick when I get in the corner – not the ‘if something doesn’t stick and I wreck.’  I don’t think about that side of that confidence.  I feel like I have a little bit different interpretation of what he was saying in that, but I just know as a Penske group they do an amazing job of making sure we are as locked in there as we can get and that’s really all we can do as a team and as drivers is making sure everything is set for you as best as possible.  The other side is that side.  That can get improved from NASCAR’s side, so it’s a group effort.  We do as much as we can.  We expect them to build the cars as safe as they can as well.”

IS THERE A WAY TO EXPLAIN TO THE FANS HOW DIFFERENT THE WRECKS FEEL IN THIS CAR TO THE PREVIOUS ONE?  “It’s just how rigid the cars are.  There’s just no give.  There’s no crush.  You look at a picture of our car from last year and you back one in the wall and the whole rear clip is gone.  It just folds all the way under and that’s just taking g’s out as it crushes until you actually get to the hard point.  The hard point is immediate, so there’s no crush.  It’s just a huge spike in g’s, so that’s the biggest issue.  The unfortunate side is we knew about this stuff before coming into this year and we thought it would be OK and it wasn’t.  It is harder.  Heck, you had guys saying right away in preseason testing like, ‘These hits feel a lot harder than what it was last year,’ and to us it’s frustrating that no one listened or believed because we’re the only ones who feel these hits.  No one from NASCAR is strapping in and going and feeling these hits.  I’ve always said, ‘All right, go strap in this thing and go wreck it at 160 with the old car and then go wreck this new one at 160 and you tell me how you feel after the hit.’  You’re gonna know it’s harder.  They’re definitely more stiff.  They’re good at the really high impact.  That’s what it’s designed for, but some of the medium impacts feel way harder than the last car, for sure.”


ARE THE ROUND OF 8 RACES COMING UP THE MOST PRESSURE RACES OF THE SEASON?  “I feel like every race in the playoffs is incredibly difficult.  You can’t afford any mistakes, but as you get later in the rounds it becomes even more important to not make any mistakes.  And then especially when you get to the Round of 8 you’re racing against the best teams out there and things like that.  Each round it intensifies, for sure, and it gets harder and harder but that’s what it’s all about and you have to understand that and you just have to focus on your job.”


DO YOU WANT TO MAKE THE DECISION TO GET OUT OF THE CAR OR YOUR CREW CHIEF?  AT WHAT POINT IS IT TOO MUCH?  “That’s a good question.  I fortunately have not been in that spot to where, knock on wood, I’ve had to make that call.  That’s the hardest decision, I feel like as a race car driver, you’d ever have to make is you never want to sit out.  You never want to give up your seat to somebody else and the playoffs too – giving up your championship.  That’s a very difficult decision for Alex and Kurt to have had to make, but at the end of the day it’s about your long-term health and I think it was good that they were able to – in the unfortunate situation of realizing that ‘I don’t feel right.  I need to take some time to get better.’  That’s really tough to make because the competitor in you always wants to keep going, but you have to take yourself out of that competition side and realize on your personal health side that you have to make a smart choice.  I feel like that’s a personal decision to yourself because you’re the only one who knows how you’re feeling.  If you feel wrong, then you have to go see and get some help and see what they think and stuff like that, but, at the end of the day, that’s a personal choice for you.  But, in the moment, Alex kept going.  The adrenaline is high and maybe you don’t know these things or sometimes the concussion side sets in later – those effects.  I can’t tell you how Alex was feeling.  I don’t know, but that’s an internal feeling I feel you have to make.”


HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE LAST FEW WEEKS FOR YOU AND WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KEEP PUSHING ON?  “I think we’ve done a really good job at Texas and Talladega of getting good stage points, finishing really well to put us in this position, so I’m really proud of the effort that we’ve made.  We had our problems at Bristol in that cut off race and they did a great job of overcoming some issues and being able to get back out there and running, and then jumping into Texas of having to be in a really tough race to call as a crew chief on when do you pit, when do you don’t pit.  I thought that we managed that race really good, and then Miles stepping in for Jonathan when he was suspended, to step in at Talladega and do a really good job on the box.  The over-the-wall guys, the two replacements, did a really great job of stepping in a high-pressure situation, going into the playoffs, and they did a great job as well.  I think we’ve really managed our playoffs pretty decently so far, and you just hope to continue to do that, but you have to realize that you’re never safe.  We’re 32 points to the good, but that can go away really quickly, so you never get too comfortable.  You’re always trying to do the same thing you’ve done through the playoffs – perform the best you can to stay in the race and keep moving on.”

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