NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular and part-time Nationwide Series driver Ryan Blaney hopes to make his Sprint Cup Series debut on Saturday in the 5-hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City, Kan. He’s slated to drive a third entry, the No. 12 Ford, for Team Penske as a teammate to Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
To make his debut, Blaney will have to qualify his way in. There are 44 drivers on the entry list hoping to claim one of the 43 available starting spots. One of the drivers he’ll be competing against for one of those coveted spots will be none other than his father, Dave Blaney.
If Ryan Blaney does get himself qualified for Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series race, the Kansas weekend will be a double-duty weekend for the young driver, as he’ll be in his regular ride, the No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford, Friday night in Camping World Truck Series action at the track.
With only two Truck Series races completed, so far, this season, Blaney has a top-five and two top-10 finishes. He’s also competed in four Nationwide races, so far, in 2014, posting one top-five and three top-10s.
Here’s what Blaney had to say ahead of his potential Cup debut:
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET GOING INTO YOUR CUP DEBUT THIS WEEKEND? IT WILL BE THE LONGEST RACE YOU’VE COMPETED IN SO FAR IN NASCAR. “You definitely have to have a different mindset with it being pretty much twice as long as the truck race. It is a whole different race. You have to pace yourself a whole different way. I know that I am not used to – in the Truck Series we get one or two pit stops a race and in the Cup Series you can get five or six which gives you more opportunity to work on the car and get better. That is something to get used to. It is a whole different race to try to plan yourself out to the end. This racetrack, when the sun is going down and then ending in the cool of the night is definitely going to change and you have to be prepared for that also.”
WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE DRIVING AGAINST YOUR DAD IF HE MAKES THE FIELD? “I think it will be really great to be a part of that list of father and sons that have raced a Cup race together. I think I read that the last time that was done was with the Hamilton’s in 2005 or something. To be a part of that list would be really cool. We were able to run the truck race at Eldora last year together and that was a blast. Hopefully we can both make the race and be able to run around each other a little bit maybe.”
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU HAVE DONE TO PREPARE FOR THE CUP RACE WITH IT BEING A LONGER RACE? “Really the biggest thing is just having mental preparations to know that you are going to be in the car for an hour and a half or two hours more than what you are in a truck race. You have to keep your state of mind calm and focused for that long. That is the biggest thing. These cars with all the luxury we have in them now of nice power steering and seats, you don’t get as physically worn out as you used to. It is the mental side you have to prepare for and I think that is the biggest task, keeping your head on for the whole race.”
HAVE YOU RACED AGAINST YOUR FATHER AT ANY LEVEL BEFORE? “Yeah, we ran the truck race at Eldora last year. He ran a little bit better than me in the race and we ran a lot with him in practice and that was a blast. We have run some smaller dirt modified races against each other. I actually beat him for the win at a dirt modified race last year somewhere near Watkins Glen and we were side-by-side off of four and I just edged him out. That was fun. It is fun racing with family members. It is the most competitive you will ever run and as hard as you will run because you want to beat that person. Hopefully we can both get in the show and hopefully weather is nice and we can qualify. It would be really cool to be on that list of father and sons to run a Cup race.”
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN THAT SATURDAY WOULD BE YOUR SPRINT CUP DEBUT? “At the start of the season when we were figuring out the schedule at Penske is when we planned the two cup races. I have known for a few months and have had some time to prepare for it. We tested in Nashville a couple weeks ago with this whole team. This whole 12 Cup team is the 22 Nationwide team, the whole group, so they work well together and I have worked with that team a lot between this year, last year and 2012. We have known for awhile and have been able to prepare properly.”
HAVE YOU BEEN GETTING ANTSY TO GET IT OUT OF THE WAY? “I don’t think we need to get it out of the way, you just are antsy for it to happen and want it to get here. You want to make your debut and hopefully it goes well. It is definitely something you look forward to. This is where every kid wants to be growing up watching NASCAR and watch his dad race everything. You wait your whole life for this opportunity and you have to make the most of it. I am fortunate that Penske was kind enough to give me this opportunity and hopefully we can make the most of it.”
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST ON SATURDAY NIGHT? IS THERE A THING OR TWO YOU REALLY HOPE YOU CAN MAYBE FIND OUT ABOUT YOURSELF AS A RACER AFTER RACING AGAINST THE BEST DRIVERS IN THE WORLD? “You hope to just get experience and run all 400 miles and not do anything foolish and hopefully get a good finish out of it and not make any mistakes. That is the worst thing you can do as a rookie, make a huge mistake in your debut and wreck your car or speed on pit road or something to ruin your run. I will try to stay mistake free and learn from a bunch of guys. Brad and Joey have really helped me out with how to drive these Cup cars. They are so different from anything that we drive from the truck to the Nationwide cars. It has been big for them to help me out and teach me what this thing is like on pit stops and in the garage going from practice to the race. It has been huge and I am thankful for their help. Hopefully we have a solid run and no mistakes.”