Ryan Blaney loves applause, such as when he’s introduced before a NASCAR Cup race or the kind he received after each of his four Xfinity Series wins and four Camping World Truck Series wins.
But there’s a round of applause and even a standing ovation Blaney once received that – well, after a humbling and embarrassing experience – he’ll make sure it never happens again.
Even though he drives the No. 21 Ford Fusion for the legendary Wood Brothers, Blaney is still a part of Team Penske, as well.
We’ll let Ryan tell the story:
“The one thing you don’t want to be is late to a Penske breakfast. You’ve got everybody there. Mr. Penske is there and all the brass and I walk in late.
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t think I overslept. I might have overslept, but I got there and there was a standing ovation. That was like in 2012 or 2013, right when I got there, and you talk about wanting to walk out of the room.
“I started sweating bullets and was just as nervous as can be, and then you’ve got to go up and give a speech right after that. That was a rough day for sure, so I make sure I’m one of the earliest to the Penske breakfast.”
On a more pleasant note …
Blaney will be starting his second full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next month at Daytona. His rookie season had its share of ups and downs in 2016.
He earned three top-five and nine top-10 finishes, but a rough second half not only cost him Rookie of the Year honors to Chase Elliott, Blaney also failed to make the playoffs and finished 20th.
Since the conclusion of the season-ending race at Homestead, Blaney has been anticipating the 2017 season, ready to put to practice some of the lessons he learned along the way.
“I think you learn the most about trying to improve your car over the whole race, and the amount of preparation and setup time it takes to get these cars to where you need to be,” Blaney said during this week’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Most of the time, if you’re not fast on Friday or Saturday it really makes for a tough weekend.
“The preparation before you even get to the track is key, to try to be as close as you can be. As drivers, we can only do so much about that, but trying to give the best information that you can throughout the whole weekend – Friday, Saturday and during the race on Sunday – is so key.
“That was probably one of the biggest things I tried to work on and get better at. I spent a lot of time in the off-season trying to do just that, and then the communication side between myself and my engineers and crew chief.”
With one of the biggest sports car races in the world – the Rolex 24 – taking place this weekend at Daytona, Blaney admits he wouldn’t mind giving a sports car a whirl some day.
“With the Ford GT program starting up and it doing so well, I would love to do that,” he said.“I would love to do the Rolex 24 or anything like that – one of the bigger races or even a smaller race.
“I love road courses and Ford has made a big commitment into the GT program and the Mustang program, so that’s something I would highly enjoy doing if I ever got a call or opportunity from Mr. Penske or Ford, I would definitely do that in a heartbeat.”
And if he did well, the resulting applause – and maybe even a standing ovation – would be welcome this time.