NASCAR is in the midst of a transition from one generation to the next.
Ryan Blaney, a Hartford Township native, is one of the young guns making a name for himself as the sport turns to its younger drivers to grow its popularity.
Ryan’s father and former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney finds it interesting, though he’d rather help his son in the area he knows best — inside the car.
“I think NASCAR is trying to engage younger fans and they’re using younger drivers to do that,” Dave Blaney said from the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway on Saturday night. “I don’t pay much attention, but it does get interesting. It’s cool for his car and his sponsors. My part of it is I help him in the car, which is hardly at all.”
The younger Blaney, 24, is a member of the Penske Racing team and pilots the No. 12 car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the No. 22 in select NASCAR Infinity Series races. He’s earned a win in each of those series as well as the Camping World Truck Series.
Though his dad doesn’t think he was old enough to learn from watching him race at Sharon Speedway, he does believe think Ryan has an ability to learn quickly.
“He was pretty young when I was doing the sprint cars,” Dave Blaney said. “I don’t think he remembers it. He’s a smart kid. He picks things up fast. He got started when he was about 7 or 8 years old. A lot of the younger drivers did the same thing. They were racing early.”
Ryan Blaney stands 11th in the NASCAR Cup standings with two poles, three top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He’s one of a group of drivers considered to be the future of the sport.
“I think Chase Elliott has a huge following already,” Dave Blaney said. “Ryan does, too. Kyle Larson is unbelievable. There are a lot of guys who are vocal and it’s pretty cool Ryan is taking on that role.”
Not only is Ryan Blaney one of the top young talents on the circuit, he’s stepped into what might be considered a leadership role in some respects. Those young drivers have been targeted as the blame for the sport losing popularity. The younger Blaney was having none of that talk and defended his brethren.
“All of the top drivers, all the good drivers, say what they think,” Dave Blaney said. “At the same time, they’re taking care of the health of the sport as much as they can. I look at it from the racing side. For me, the racing is great. From my side, I like everything about it.”
Not everyone is able to speak his mind publicly the way Ryan Blaney has, but it’s a role he seems to slip into pretty easily.
“Everyone is different,” Dave said. “He’s a lot different than I am. He’s more outgoing. Every has a comfort zone they want be in being around people. From that side of the sport, he’s excellent.”
Though willing to spar verbally when necessary, Ryan doesn’t carry that same edge on the track.
“I think he races really hard and really fair,” his father said. “It’s funny. It’s a lot less cutthroat driving a car now than when I was driving. He does a nice job with everything. If he does something wrong, he’s the first to own it. He’s a good guy.”
As a father, not just a fellow driver, Dave Blaney couldn’t be more proud of his son.
“I’m really proud of him,” Dave Blaney said. “He’s just a good kid. He does the right things. He and my two daughters [Emma and Erin]. I’ve been really lucky. It’s a credit to [my wife] Lisa that we have three really great kids. They do the right things. It’s been fun watching them grow up.”