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NASCAR Cup Series

Blaney Talks Progress, Elliott and Snapchat

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For rookie Ryan Blaney, the season to date has been one of give and take.

Although he scored his fourth top 20 at Martinsville this past weekend, the driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion readily admitted to POPULAR SPEED that he had to do a whole lot of giving just to finish on the lead lap.

“I gave a lot more than I took at Martinsville, for multiple reasons,” Blaney said. “As a rookie I don’t want to be that guy who goes there for his first time and is the aggressor. It probably affected our finish but that’s a learning curve.

“I was pretty courteous and I probably gave a little bit more than I should have, but maybe we’ll put that in our bank and utilize that in the fall.”

Although Blaney felt he had to give a bit to gain the respect from his fellow competitors, he had some good takeaways from the STP 500 after finishing in the 19th spot.

“We had some runs where I thought we were okay and other runs where I thought we were way off,” Blaney said. “I did learn more about what I needed in the [racecar] to be fast there. I’ve struggled over the years at Martinsville in the trucks and still need to improve a lot there.

“It’s not like a typical short track, things about it are very tough. I think experience prevails there more than most other tracks. So I learned some things with the car and more about how to run the track.”

Blaney’s 19th place finish at Martinsville put him into the 15th place in the driver’s standings. And his car owners, the legendary Wood Brothers, now sit 16th in the owners’ point standings.

There has also been some good give and take between Blaney and his Rookie of the Year rival Chase Elliott. In fact, Blaney has 66 points to Elliott’s 70 points in that rookie battle.

“It’s cool to see them running well,” Blaney said of Team 24. “They have been very fast all year, and are tough to beat week in and week out. But we are focused on our own program and trying to improve that as much as possible.”

As far as improvement, Blaney will take that as he acknowledges the season to date has had its share of ups and downs.

“There have been a couple of races I wish we could take back, but it’s a learning process,” Blaney said. “And I think we are getting stronger. I need to be better at putting complete races together as well. It is tough running 500-mile races with the track changing so much. That definitely needs to get better on my end.”

Blaney plans to give it all he has at the upcoming race this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, especially after not finishing either of the two races there last year. In fact, he finished 42nd in the 2015 race after the engine failure and 43rd in the fall race after an accident.

“We had fast cars at Texas last year,” Blaney said. “With a motor problem in the first race and myself making a mistake in the second one, it was tough.

“I’m hoping to rally this year.”

In addition to a Texas rally, Blaney is very much looking forward to experiencing one of the things that he and some of his compadres on the track enjoy most, driving the heck out of their race cars while wearing out their tires.

“Texas is a great track,” Blaney said. “It is rough and wears out the tires, which is what the drivers like.”

“Honestly it is one of my favorite places and the fans are spectacular.”

Blaney’s crew chief Jeremy Bullins is also looking forward to seeing what his driver can give him at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Every week is a new opportunity,” Bullins said. “The reality is we had really fast cars at Texas last year so we look forward to going back.”

“The low-downforce package and tire combination will likely make for more fall-off so having a good-handling car throughout the stages of a run will be important, and maybe even more important than last year,” Bullins continued. “The bumps over the tunnel in turn one are usually somewhere you have to work on making sure your car turns.”

Most of all, Blaney said that he and his No. 21 team are looking forward to taking a well-prepared car to the Texas track to compete in the Duck Commander 500 this weekend.

“It’s nice to consistently race every weekend,” Blaney said. “It’s also nice to have cars close (to being race ready) unloading off the truck. Just fine tuning is what we need to do pretty much (during practice).”

While the anticipation is great for on-track activities in the Lone Star state, Blaney also teased that there might just be some give and take off-track between himself and his partner in social media crime Bubba Wallace.

Fans will remember that Blaney and Wallace had some fun on the “NASCAR Goes West” trip to California impersonating drivers’ style behind the wheel as well as impressions of drivers giving post-race interviews.

Unfortunately, the rookie driver would not share any further details as to what he and Wallace may give to the fans on Snapchat this Texas race weekend.

“You’ll all just have to wait and find out….”


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Mary Jo Buchanan

Mary Jo Buchanan has been a race fan since her childhood, having grown up at a local Pennsylvania dirt track. With her experience in the pits, she has developed an interest and expertise in all levels of racing, from the local scene to the highest level of the sport. Many of her articles focus on the ‘behind the scenes’ and sometimes ‘off the beaten path’ stories about the world of racing. Buchanan also enjoys writing about up and coming drivers and the people that make NASCAR work on a daily basis.