The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Ryan Blaney of Team Penske, who won the recent race at the Charlotte Roval. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed below for those who prefer to read.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
It depends. I dream about races that never happened sometimes that you really don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve dreamt about bad races before, reliving wrecks or something. I guess you could call those nightmares. So yeah, those really are the only two times I’ve dreamt about racing, if it’s just a random occurrence or something that’s never happened before and I can’t really make any sense of it. Or the wrecks, there’s a few bad ones that you sometimes dream about I guess.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
I definitely think it does, especially if it was unintentional. I think you should apologize for sure if it was your fault, and you hope the other person understands. Now if it was intentional, I don’t think you go apologize. You did it intentionally, you’re not gonna go be sorry for it. If it’s an accident and I screw up and I get loose under somebody and spin them out or we both spin out, I’ll try to find them as soon as I can or call them and say that was obviously my fault. But yeah. Different answers for intentional or unintentional stuff.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
Something that’s really cool to me is when parents tell me that their kids look up to me. That’s a super cool compliment because they’re talking about how their kids are huge fans of me and they love racing, they want to be just like you on and off the track. Like man, that’s pretty cool. I don’t know if I’ve met you guys before, but this kid wants to be like me and he doesn’t really even know me, he just knows me from around the racetrack or from racing and the social stuff that’s out there. That’s really cool and makes me feel good because that’s part of the reason why we do it.
You want to be as good of a role model as you can. I remember I was a kid who loved racing and was running around the garage and wanted to be like this driver or that driver just because I liked what they did. So to kind of have the roles now, me being in that spot, that makes me feel really good when parents tell me that or their kids come up to me and are wearing my shirt and they’re super happy to see me, because that just shows they’re big fans and they look up to me. It’s like a big brother moment, I guess. I think that’s the best compliment I can be paid.
4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?
I’ll do a male and female version. I’m a big, big Ryan Reynolds fan, I think he’s an awesome actor. I’d love to have him. Did you say who’s the person or what would we do?
Just who would you like to take around?
Ryan Reynolds, that’s the guy. And the girl…ooh that’s tough. A lot of celebrity crushes. I’m a big Daisy Ridley fan. Do you know who she is?
Yeah. Well, you met her. She didn’t know who you were at the Lakers game.
She had no idea. But yeah, maybe that can be a second meeting. She probably doesn’t remember the Lakers thing, but I always will. But yeah, those will be my two.
Just next time be like, “Hey, by the way, I’m a NASCAR driver. Just come on out.”
Invite her out, yeah.
5. In an effort to show this is a health-conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the pole for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?
It’s only one race for the first pit stall? One month of vegan? That’s a hard one, that’s a good one. My sister is vegan, and I don’t know how she does it.
The little one, Erin. And she’s in college and being in college and being a vegan, that’s tough. And I’ve seen what she has to eat, and it’s not pleasant. But I don’t know. I feel like I could only do the vegan thing for two weeks. I like meat too much and I eat way too much of that stuff. So I don’t know if I could do the vegan thing. I would try, but I just don’t think I would succeed.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the Kentucky Truck race from 2014. Do you remember this race at all?
Yes I do. I ran third. Kyle (Busch) won the race and Bubba got second.
Holy crap! Wow! That’s impressive.
It took me a second to think about but yeah, I remember that race. We had a shot to win, and the last restart didn’t really work out. Yup, I remember that. That was the old Kentucky.
Are you good at remembering races in general, or does that one just happen to stick out?
I’m pretty good at remembering races when people bring up what race it was, what year. I can usually remember that. But if I’m standing here, I’m not gonna be like, “Yeah, that race in 2015, so and so.” But if you bring up a race, I can usually think back and remember it. I don’t just think about races all the time. But when it gets brought up in discussion, I can easily usually think back on it.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
I don’t really listen to rap music. I don’t know. I think Eminem is a good rapper. I feel like there’s only a few rappers I listen to, but Eminem, Notorious B.I.G., I listened to Tupac as a kid. Kendrick Lamar is really good. I saw a J. Cole concert a couple years back when he came out with that album, he was really really good. Post Malone’s good, I saw him in concert in Charlotte like a month ago, and I got to hang out with him for a little bit. Super nice guy.
Would you get the Post Malone eye tattoos under your eyes?
You know, that might be an offseason thing for me. And then laser them off.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
That’s an interesting one because I’ve seen you, heard you ask that question before. It’s not even really who would you punch, it’s who has the most punchable face. That’s almost like calling someone ugly, I don’t know. (Laughs) There’s certain people that sometimes I look at them after the race and I’m like, “God, I want to kick your ass.” And it’s really nothing against them, it’s just how they raced me, if they fenced me in or something.
But most punchable face, there’s one I would say but I don’t know how to say it. Have a lot of people have said Kyle Busch?
Yeah, he and Brad kind of get most of the answers.
OK. I guess those guys have punchable faces. I don’t know what a punchable face is, but I could say those two would be a tie. I’m just going to go with what everyone else says.
9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks.
I would like to hear Tom Hanks’ voice on the radio all the time, so I would do the spotter thing for him. LeBron should be the crew chief because of his work ethic. And Taylor can be the bus driver, because who wouldn’t want to be in a bus with Taylor Swift? (Laughs)
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
I think there’s multiple people involved in this. There’s myself, so when we’re walking out to intros and you’re kind of figuring out where the car is staged, look around for some port-a-johns. Ian (Moye), my PR guy, he’s good for looking for some bathrooms. And then my interior guy is also really good. So it’s a group effort. If neither of us see one while walking out, I’ll ask Kyle (Belmont), my interior guy, and he’ll usually have a good spot for me to go.
Is that because he doesn’t want to have to clean up if you can’t find the bathroom?
Well, I’ll never do that to him. I’ll rupture inside before I do that to him. But no, he’s always just on the lookout because, you know, those guys are on the grid for a while, so they have to scout out all the bathrooms. Yeah, so it’s a group effort, teamwork. Teamwork in everything nowadays.
11. NASCAR decides they would like the highlight reel value brought by the former Carl Edwards backflips and want their own version. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?
Not much. I just have to practice it. If I’m going out there green, I don’t know if I can do it. That’s hard. It’s hard enough to do a backflip on a trampoline. I can do plenty of stuff on trampolines, but off a car, that’s tough. If I could get like five shots at it off a car door into like a foam pit first, then I’d do it for nothing.
Just for the good of the sport.
Yup, for the good of the sport. That’s what we’re in this for.
12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was with Michael McDowell and David Ragan. Their question for you is: Why don’t you ever go sprint car racing?
The reason why I didn’t grow up sprint car racing, number one, was I grew up in North Carolina, and by the time I was old enough to drive, my dad was already racing NASCAR and there’s just really no dirt tracks around. It’s asphalt, Late Model stuff. And Legend cars and quarter midgets, but that was kind of the main deal in North Carolina and where we were.
But why I don’t do it now is I’m really not allowed. It’s not encouraged for me to go do it. I’ll tell you a story. It was 2012, I’d just signed with Penske, and we were at the Texas (Xfinity) race and I was doing that one in the 22 car. My dad, until 2011, 12, 13, was building his own sprint cars and was testing them and racing them. So I’d help him build them a little bit, and I go run some laps in them to go test it. And I was testing it in the week before Texas.
We got done with practice at Texas and Tim Cindric, president of Penske, comes in and we’re talking about the car. I’m just starting at Penske and he walks out and he turns around like, “Oh, by the way, no more driving sprint cars.” It was like, “Oh man. OK.” How did he know that I was testing sprint cars? That’s baffling to me.
And so I was telling my dad this story just a few weeks ago, and he was like, “Yeah, because you scared the shit out of me driving that sprint car and I thought you were gonna wreck and I told him to tell you that you can’t drive sprint cars anymore.” Like man, you threw me under the bus! I can’t believe him. Yeah. I just found that out. So much for trust in dad.
But yeah, that’s really why I don’t do it. I’d love to do it, it’s what my dad does full time right now, it’s what my family grew up on pretty much and I love going to the races and learning about those cars and absolutely love that side of racing, but it’s just not something I can go do really right now. Maybe when I’m done with this deal, I’d like to go do it just because it was a family thing, but not right now.
So Tim Cindric had to do your dad’s dirty work, basically.
Yeah. I know! Dad just should have come to me and told me, but no, he didn’t want to be that guy. He wanted to use a middleman. He was using Tim Cindric as a middleman. That’s pretty rough.
I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. You can either give me a general question or I’ll try to double back with you when I know the next driver.
Yeah, just get back with me whenever you know. I’m gonna ask a hard-hitting question.