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Blaney has presence beyond his 18 years

September 18, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Ryan Blaney's maturity was on display at Iowa, where he held off the field on several restarts to get his first truck win. (Autostock)

Driver shows maturity in becoming the youngest Truck Series winner

For Ryan Blaney, an average day begins at Penske Racing headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., where he works out in the organization's fitness area and then meets with the crew of the No. 22 car he occasionally drives in the Nationwide Series. Then it's down the road to Brad Keselowski Racing, where he checks in on the No. 29 entry he's running the rest of the season in the Camping World Truck Series. Then it's over to the Blaney family shop in Salisbury, which houses his father Dave's sprint cars in addition to the K&N Pro Series vehicle that Ryan piloted last year.

For a professional race car driver, it's a usual day at several offices. For an 18-year-old who this time last year was a senior at Bishop McGuinness High School in Kernersville, N.C., it's sometimes kind of a shock. Particularly after last weekend, when Blaney prevailed at Iowa Speedway to become the youngest race winner in the 18-year history of the Truck Series.

"It's huge having him at the race track and having him in my life, and helping me out along the way. I'm very fortunate to have a dad like that"

--RYAN BLANEY

"Thinking that I was in high school last year and now I'm winning truck races -- it's pretty unbelievable," Blaney said Monday. "I've been very fortunate here to have all the opportunities that have been presented to me. We're very lucky that people have believed in me enough to put time and money in me. It definitely means a lot to all those people, and they know who they are. And hopefully we can keep growing, and I can keep learning, and hopefully make it up there and make them even more proud."

Blaney's breakthrough victory at NASCAR's national level wasn't exactly a stunner to anyone who's watched him compete the last few years. His talent clearly was evident last season, when he showed flashes of potential on both the K&N and ARCA circuits. There was a reason Penske signed him as a development driver, and it was evident in the seventh-place finish he recorded last spring at Richmond in his first Nationwide start. Four more top-10s followed, one of them on the Truck Series, despite running a limited schedule. But winning? That seemed a very large next step, one that might take more time to develop.

It took all of three Truck Series starts. Blaney looked like a driver beyond his years Saturday night at Iowa, when he withstood one restart after another to notch both his first victory and the inaugural win for Keselowski's truck team. Like every driver, he has a career path sketched roughly in his head, and he sees the seat time in the No. 29 truck as beneficial to both his Nationwide efforts and his long-range plans. But did it happen sooner than he thought it would? That much he never really considered. After all, winning is the goal every time out.

"Honestly, I haven't really thought about when it would happen," Blaney said. "I go into every race with the same mentality of I want to win. I never really have a timeline of when I want to win. But yeah, it definitely has come earlier than most people thought it would. But it's always good to surprise people in that way."

Although barely old enough to vote, Blaney's maturity is evident on the race track as well as off it. This week meant a round of media appearances for the youngest winner on the Truck Series, which he handled with ease, crediting a racing background that places an emphasis on communication between driver and crew chief. "People tell me I'm pretty mature for my age, but I look like a 14-year-old," Blaney said. "But everyone tells me I'm mature for my age except my older sister. She always says I act like a 13-year-old. But this media stuff is really important. It's half the battle."

The maturity was evident late in the race at Iowa. Blaney was on a set of tires with 30 laps on them, staring in his rearview mirror at the truck of Ty Dillon, who was on fresh rubber. He thought about the No. 3 truck on stickers. He thought about not overdriving the corner. He thought about the possibility of someone bumping him out of the way. He thought about going hard, staying in front of everyone else and not making mistakes. The only thing he didn't think about was winning.

"In the last, closing laps, the minute you think about winning, your mind gets off of the moment where you're actually racing," he said. "You have two laps left. You definitely have to push back those thoughts of winning the race. You dig hard enough, and you don't think about any of that stuff until the race is over and you've actually won the race. So yeah, you definitely have to think of it like every other lap to not get your mind off racing."

Truck Series

How Blaney has fared
TrackStartFinish
Atlanta1211
Iowa21

In the end, Blaney pulled away. Waiting in Victory Lane was his father, Dave, a veteran NASCAR racer who has made 546 starts at the sport's national level, the majority of them in the premier division. "It's unbelievable. He does such a good job," the elder Blaney said Saturday night. "... He does so good, and he catches on so quick, it's fun to watch." His son says he learned much of it from dad, who despite his own duties with Tommy Baldwin's No. 36 Sprint Cup car is a fixture at Ryan's events.

"He's obviously a huge influence," Ryan Blaney said. "He's pretty much taught me most of what I know. He's really at almost every single race. He talks to me at every single race, and he's just a huge help every time he's at the race track. He knows what to look for. He's raced his whole life. He knows what to look for at the race track. He's a racer. He'll tell me if he sees something that maybe I'm doing wrong. Or he'll see something in practice that maybe someone else is trying, and he'll help us out. So it's huge having him at the race track and having him in my life, and helping me out along the way. I'm very fortunate to have a dad like that."

Blaney makes occasional starts in Penske's No. 22 Nationwide car, with one of them set for Saturday at Kentucky Speedway. He said he's also set to drive Keselowski's No. 29 truck for the remainder of that series' schedule. He said he hasn't yet discussed 2013 plans with either team, though he'd clearly prefer to be back with both organizations next season.

"Just trying to live and race right now, and do all we can," he said. "Hopefully, we have enough good runs here in the Nationwide car and the truck where we do something next year. I think that would be great. I'd love to be with Penske Racing and Brad next year. It's a great organization with great people. I would really love to stay here next year with more Nationwide races and a lot more truck races. This is really where I want to be. We'll just do as good as we can now, and hopefully we're still here beginning of next year."

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