Ryan Blaney spent Sunday evening behind the wheel of an iconic race car, trying to find Victory Lane in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing machine. Entering Charlotte with a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway and a win in the second stage of the Monster Energy Open, Blaney had started to turn around from three finishes of 33rd or worse in the last four points races haunting him.
This week would test Blaney again, but the sting was lessened by his accomplishment Saturday, one he shared with his father, Dave Blaney. And his father’s support and an important lesson would come into play Sunday night as well.
Ryan didn’t take his father’s route to NASCAR, running his first full season in the Truck Series at just 19. He got his first win in his first year, and now has four Truck Series wins and, with his win in the XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300 Saturday, five wins in that series.
Ryan has 66 Cup Series starts to date and has crept closer to breaking through there in 2017.
After Saturday’s race, in which Ryan and Dave Blaney became the first father-son duo to win at Charlotte in the XFINITY Series, Ryan remembered Dave’s win 11 years prior, when the then-12-year-old watched it unfold.
“Back then it wasn’t the XFINITY Series in ’06, but that was pretty neat for my dad to win here,” he said. “I remember watching that race and that was a heck of a race.”
Blaney didn’t credit his father with any one piece of advice that’s helped him become one of NASCAR’s hottest young stars.
“To me, personally, he’s the best racecar driver ever,” Blaney said Saturday. “That’s how I’ve always looked at him and that’s how I’ve always thought of him, not only as my father but the way he drives car – and not only his driving ability, but his mindset towards things. I think he’s one of the smartest people I know, personally, in the racecar, outside the racecar, building parts, coming up with inventions and ideas.
“He always just supports me and it was cool to have him here today. That’s really special to me to have him at the race track through the good and bad times of getting a stern talking to or helpful support and it’s usually support. I’ve been lucky to have somebody like that to help me through these weekends to try to get myself better, whether it’s restarts or long runs or just communication. He’s been the best person, so in my mind I’ll never be half the race car driver is, personally. I think he’s the greatest one ever and that’s how I’ll always think of him.”
One lesson Ryan learned over the years watching his father has been patience, but it hasn’t been an easy lesson for the youngster.
“I have a lot better patience than what I did a couple of years ago,” he said. ” You learn that as you run a little bit more in NASCAR and all these series. When you have to start in the back or something goes wrong and you lose five or 10 spots, it’s just the patience aspect of it. We were super-patient working our way up through the field, and it helps out when you have a really good car because you know you can be patient and you don’t have to worry about the leader coming or something like that and you have to push hard.
“When you have a great car like that you don’t want to make a mistake when you’re trying to come up through the field of hurting it or damaging it. That’s the last thing you want to do, so that’s definitely come a long way in the past couple years from where I used to be. That’s A, from getting a stern talking to for the most part and B, trying to tell myself to be more patient”
Blaney’s patience has paid off handsomely in 2017. He had led 233 laps this season before the Coca-Cola 600, including 83 at Kansas two weeks ago, a race Blaney nearly won before falling to fourth after a series of late restarts.
The Coca-Cola 600 was another test of the patience Blaney has learned this year. He had a fast car, one capable of contending for a win, but a broken axle on pit road put an end to Blaney’s chances. His team made repairs in a matter of two minutes, losing just five laps. Still, it was enough to mean his bid for to be a winner in all three of NASCAR’s touring divisions would have to wait at least another week.
Blaney did gain a lot of ground and get one of his laps back as several cars fell victim to the 600-mile race, but in the end wasn’t able to climb past. He’ll have to be patient one more week, but that’s a lesson he’s learned well, and he’s getting the look of a driver who’s going to win once and then win repeatedly.
How to win? Blaney learned that from the best driver ever.