The annual NASCAR Media Tour was held last week around the Charlotte area, and out of all the chaos, Ryan Blaney emerged as a motorsports press darling.
Blaney, who was shuffled from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske this season, is one of those young guns working his way to elite-driver status.
After winning in the No. 21 Ford in 2017, he earned a place at the Penske table. Roger Penske created a third team for Blaney, who will drive the No. 12 Ford.
Blaney will now address Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford) and Joey Logano (No. 22) as his teammates. Penske has the ways and means to debut a championship-caliber stock car.
“Hopefully, it is a breakout season; that is what you want,” Blaney said. “Obviously, you want to keep getting better year after year and keep improving on the previous season.
“I think with experience we got a lot better last year, and I hope to have a huge year. You sit back in the offseason and try to figure out what you can do better teamwise or what drivers can do personally — off the track to prepare for the weekend, everything.”
Blaney came up with racing in his bloodline. His grandfather, Lou Blaney, and father, Dave Blaney, both raced with a passion. Dave Blaney, who made 473 Cup Series starts, continues a limited sprint-car schedule.
To this day, Ryan helps his father prep cars at the family shop.
“I spend a lot of time with him in the offseason,” young Blaney said. “We just spent a full day decaling up his new sprint cars.
“I like to spend as much time as I can there. That is where I grew up racing my Late Models. Whatever he needs, I am there.”
During the tour, Kyle Busch indicated he thought NASCAR was putting too much effort into promoting its new, 20-something faces, such as Chase Elliott, William Byron and Erik Jones.
Specifically, Busch was asked if he feels there is an emphasis on the younger generation of drivers.
“Absolutely there is,” he said. “Do you feel like that, too?”
The follow-up question was “Does that bother you?”
“It is bothersome,” Busch said. “We've paid our dues, and our sponsors have and everything else, and all you're doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver. I think it's stupid.”
Blaney, 24, said when he is asked to do something to promote the sport, he generally says yes.
“I have been really fortunate to get a lot of great chances from NASCAR to go do things outside of motorsports,” he said.
“I think it is good for the sport and myself,” he continued. “I can tell you personally that he (Busch) doesn’t like doing a lot of stuff so that is why they don’t ask him to do a lot of stuff.
“That kind of made me upset how he bashed that part of it. To each his own. If he doesn’t want to do anything, so be it.”
Blaney is not afraid to speak his mind, which is refreshing in the recent buttoned-down atmosphere of the NASCAR Cup Series garage area.
Since Blaney grew up in the sport, he knows the history. For example, he knew that Ryan Newman had some very good seasons in the No. 12 Team Penske entry.
Newman won eight races behind the wheel of the No. 12 in 2003.
“I think just bringing back the No. 12 car to the Penske group is really special,” Blaney said. “The car hasn’t been around in a long time. I remember growing up watching Ryan Newman drive it and loving that car.
“Hopefully, we can have the success he had in it and more. I have been lucky to drive for some great teams over the years with the Wood Brothers and now to drive a Cup car full time for Roger Penske is a dream of mine.”