Thursday, Aug 18

Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Ready For Indianapolis Road Course

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Moen Ford Mustang -- YOUR FOUNDATION IS HOSTING A SECTION OF FANS IN HONOR OF ALZHEIMER’S AND BRAIN AWARENESS.  CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?  “I’m really excited to be able to do that.  We’ve worked with the Alzheimer’s Association in the past and they’ve been great to work with and that’s really what our charity was founded on years ago, so it’s great to have them out.  It’s great that Indianapolis let us kind of set up a booth and fans could buy a package to come to the race.  I get to meet a lot of them tomorrow, which I’m very excited about the fans who have supported our charity and supported our cause for a very long time really ever since it started, but it’s a neat event.  My family has been a big part of it since the foundation got up and started.  I’m excited to meet all those fans that bought that package and all going to support the Alzheimer’s Association.  It’s gonna be a really fun day tomorrow.”

 

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF YOUR CONTRACT?  AREN’T YOU UP PRETTY QUICK, TOO?  “Really, at the end of the day I’m smiling about it, so stay tuned.”

 

IF ROGER GIVES YOU A CHOICE WOULD YOU RATHER RUN THE OVAL OR ROAD COURSE HERE IN A CUP CAR?  “It’s special no matter what course we run, I think.  I’ve enjoyed running on the oval.  I enjoyed running on the road course last year.  I personally wouldn’t mind seeing it maybe switch up every few years – a couple years.  I don’t think running the road course makes this place any less special.  I mean, you’re still racing at Indianapolis and you understand the history behind this place.  I’m just really fortunate to be racing here and then to be racing for Roger here.  That makes it even more special, so either one, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it switching up every two or three years and that might happen.”

 

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE TO DECREASE THE FORCE ON THE DRIVER IN CRASHES WITH THIS NEXT GEN CAR?  “That’s been a topic of conversation and it’s definitely come up the past week with Kurt getting hurt and hopefully he’s on the right path to getting back.  It’s something that was kind of brought up in our meetings between drivers and NASCAR in the offseason, understanding where they were when they designed this car for intrusion – safety upgrades for sure, but I think the car is so rigid and stiff in the front and back and even the sides that some of these hits are harder on the driver even though they might show that they’re better on paper.  So, it’s something I’ve noticed.  I think everyone will tell you that they’ve noticed that some of these hits that you really wouldn’t think twice about last year’s car, you definitely feel them a lot more in this car.  I’m sure they’re working on it.  That’s NASCAR’s area to try to improve and the teams all we can do is give them feedback and try to help that process along.  I’m sure they’ve got a plan for the offseason and I think all the drivers really want to help out with giving our feedback and just trying to make it better all around.”

 

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES GOING TO BE AT MICHIGAN WITH THIS NEW CAR?  “I think it’s gonna be a lot different than last year.  It was almost like s speedway race last year, essentially, with the high downforce stuff.  This year going back I feel like it’s gonna be more of a look of what we had a few years ago with the other car, kind of lower downforce.  I’m not really sure what to expect.  I’d love to tell you all what I expect going to these tracks for the first time with this new car, but I don’t know.  Hopefully, the track we get up in the old PJ1 and keeps the track wide for this car.  I think it’ll help, so it’s really hard to tell but I’m excited to get back there.  It’s obviously a big weekend, just like this weekend for us with Ford being right in their backyard.  I think it’ll be a good race, that’s for sure, with this car.  We’ve seen it this year.  This car puts on really good shows at mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks and I expect nothing less.”

 

GOING BACK TO RICHMOND FOR A SECOND TIME, WHAT DID YOU LEARN THE LAST TIME TO BE BETTER?  “I thought we learned a lot at the spring Richmond.  We sat on the pole and led some laps.  That’s a big day for me at that place, just trying to continue to get better there.  It figures, right when we start to figure out Richmond they take it out of the playoffs, which is pretty funny, but I think we learned a lot just kind of how that race developed.  That place, I feel like I’ve got it half figured out now of kind of being good early in the race and good in qualifying and just need to figure out the second half of the race when that track kind of changes.  You take all those notes and figure out, ‘OK, where did the track change?’  You can usually do a pretty good job of looking around this lap the track changed.  Why did it change and what did we do?  Maybe we missed making a change or wanted the wrong thing at that time, so all of that stuff you go back and look at.  I’ll go back and look at it next week to kind of prepare for Richmond and hopefully do a little bit better job there.”

 

WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT LEVEL IN THE POINTS WITH MARTIN GETTING CLOSER TO YOU AND CHASE PULLING AWAY IN THE REGULAR SEASON POINTS RACE?  “That one is probably definitely out the window.  He’s put together a really good past month-and-a-half and we haven’t.  He’s kind of pulled away significantly from the whole field and then our race with Martin, I mean he’s closed the gap up pretty good.  He’s been running pretty well, so it’s two-fold.  I mean, the easiest but hardest thing to do is win, and I could stop talking about it, but we’ve been trying all year.  Hopefully, we can get it done and not have to worry about it, but you just have to be in the back of your head of realizing that you’re still points racing Martin – we are – for the final.  You don’t want to be on the bubble if there’s no new winners, and obviously you want to try and win the race, so it’s a balancing act, especially the two road courses that we have.  Do you pit?  Do you take the stage points to try to keep a good gap to the 19, or if you think your car can win do you try to cycle to the lead?  So, it’s kind of situational, I feel like.  We talk about all these scenarios throughout the week and in our pre-race meetings, but at the end of the day the main focus is trying to win the race and just doing all you can to try and make that one happen.”

 

HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU GOING TO BE IN DECIDING WHETHER TO GO OPPOSITE OF TRUEX OR FOLLOW HIM, OR IS THAT THE CREW CHIEF’S ROLE?  “Jonathan and I talk a lot about that.  You have all of these plans before the race, but a lot of it is kind of where you qualify.  If you’re qualified towards the front and you think your car is really fast and you have a chance to win, you might stay on that strategy and try to stay up towards the front and just cycle back to the front all the time.  We’ve done that strategy before at Sonoma, getting stage points, but you end up with a top five day because you stay out of the mess and you stay up front.  So, at the end of the day it’s Jonathan’s call and what he thinks is best, but he trusts me enough to where I have input too.  If I think, ‘Hey, I don’t know if we can win this race, let’s maybe try to get all the stage points we can.’  He trusts me and I trust him.  A lot of those discussions are throughout the race of kind of what’s happening in the moment, but you do make all these plans throughout the week – he and I and our engineers — of what we’re thinking baseline and then you can modify plans off of that.”

 

SOME OF THE DRIVERS HAVE WORN MOUTHGUARD ACCELEROMETERS TO GIVE NASCAR FEEDBACK.  HAVE YOU TRIED THAT OR DONE ANYTHING TO HELP THAT PROCESS?  “I haven’t done the mouthguard.  I know some guys have.  I don’t know what they’ve said about it, but I think that’s just getting data.  You’re getting data.  The data on the car they have, but they’re trying to get data on what the driver hits are.  I know Indy Car they use accelerometers in their earpieces, in their ear molds, and I’ve heard good and bad things about that talking to our Indy Car guys.  It can be weird in your ear and if you hit your headrest a certain way one is gonna be a lot higher than the other, but the mouthguard thing, I don’t want to wear a mouthguard while I’m racing.  That’s just plain and simple.  I know it’s smaller, it’s a retainer, but I really don’t want to have that in my mouth while I’m out there racing.  Hopefully, we can figure something out.  I think the in-ear piece, they’re already in there.  You could put something in your ear molds to at least get you some sort of an idea of what drivers are going through.”

 

DID YOU IMAGINE THERE WOULD BE A YEAR OF POSSIBLY 17 WINNERS IN A SINGLE YEAR?  “Yeah.  Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet.  You look at all the great teams and drivers who could win in this series and I’m surprised it has not happened yet, and it could happen this year.  It’s just one of those things.  That’s why you’ve seen people be so aggressive at the end of these races for wins.  You have to do it, especially when you have so many winners.  You cannot pass up your opportunity.  I mean, I don’t like roughing people up or moving people out of the way, you have to get physical with it.  You can’t afford to not be physical and give up a shot to win a race.  It’s just one of those things where people are so aggressive nowadays, well, you have to be.  It’s one of those situations to where if you don’t, you might not ever get that chance again and you might miss out on the playoffs.  I’m shocked there hasn’t been 16 winners yet, but I’m sure it will happen.  If not this year, at some point.”

 

DO YOU VIEW MICHIGAN AND DAYTONA AS YOUR BEST SHOTS FOR A WIN?  “Not really.  I look at any week and I feel like this group can go out and win any week.  It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.  I know we won at those two places last year, but completely different scenarios, different car at both of the tracks.  At Daytona, these things draft way different.  At Michigan, they’re gonna drive way different than what they did last year, so I don’t view those as two of the best weekends.  I feel like this is a great weekend for us and the four other races after that.  I don’t really look at favorite tracks I think we have a better shot to win at.  I try to keep the mindset of we can go out and win any week.”

 

THROUGH 21 RACES WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR.  WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL EVALUATION OF IT?  “I feel like there are some things we can definitely improve on it.  I mean, you know that’s gonna be a thing when you have anything new.  There’s always things you can do better with it and kind of learning pains of this car, whether it’s team side to NASCAR side on what they can do better to make the racing even better, which I think it’s put on pretty good racing this year, but there are some situations to where I wish this car was a little bit better.  I’ll give it a solid B-plus.  I feel like they can get to an A, for sure.  Just the racing side of it, I don’t care how these cars drive by themselves.  I mean, any driver will tell you that they drive how they’re gonna drive and we’ll get around that, but it’s all about how they race in traffic.  I think there are things that we’ve been talking about with NASCAR and they’ve been testing some stuff out, whether it’s taking the diffuser off of it at a short track and things like that, so hopefully we can get something figured out to keep improving it and I’m sure we’re gonna do it.  We did it from the offseason. To be honest with you, when we were testing in the offseason I was pretty nervous about this year of being able to put on any good races because I thought they struggled in the offseason in all those tests in traffic and things like that, and we’ve made big improvements since then, so I think after you get a whole year under your belt you can really go in and dive in and figure out how to make it even better.”

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