When it comes to promoting NASCAR, Ryan Blaney isn’t afraid of saying yes

Daniel McFadin
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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Ryan Blaney took exception to comments made by Kyle Busch on Tuesday criticizing NASCAR marketing and publicity campaigns that focus more on young Cup drivers over veterans like Busch.

Busch described the strategies as “stupid” and “bothersome,” saying veteran drivers and their sponsors have paid their dues.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also said young drivers “are bullied into doing more things than the older guys are because we say no a lot more because we’ve been there, done that and have families.”

Blaney said the comments “kind of made me upset how he bashed that part of it.”

The 24-year-old Team Penske driver is entering his third full-time Cup season after two years with Wood Brothers Racing.

Blaney made clear he’s never been bullied into doing something to promote the sport.

“I’ve been really fortunate to get a lot of great chances from NASCAR to go do things outside of motorsports,” Blaney said Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour. “NBC and NASCAR were a big thing in getting me to do “Taken,” the Cars (3) voice and Logan Lucky. That was all really from NASCAR. I’ve always been very open to do a lot of the things they want. It’s not always been stuff like that. You go do some markets where maybe you don’t think it’s going to be a very good market, but you do it anyway because it helps the sport and it helps yourself. It’s win-win for everybody.

“Maybe (Busch) doesn’t like doing it. I feel like if some drivers were more willing to do these things they’d get asked more to do it. The reason I get asked to do it a lot is because I say yes a lot. Because I think it’s good for the sport and myself. I can tell you personally he doesn’t like to do a lot of stuff so that’s why they don’t ask him to do a lot of stuff.”

Blaney was among many current and former Cup drivers who appeared in Logan Lucky in cameo roles, including Busch. They joined Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano.

Blaney stressed the importance of all drivers, not just those in his age bracket, making the effort to push NASCAR toward “new demographics of the world.”

“Whether it’s from younger fans to new fans who don’t pay attention to it who aren’t young,” Blaney said. “It’s not just young drivers who are gonna make people appeal to the sport, it’s the whole lot.

“I think everybody should be little bit more open to helping the sport out because that’s how it’s going to survive. I’m trying to the best that I can at it and a lot of other drivers are helping to. It’s just trying to get more and more every day.”

Ty Dillon, 25, “laughed a little bit” at Busch’s comments.

“Kyle’s got a good reach himself,” said Dillon, driver of Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet. “The fact that he’s such a good driver and winner, I don’t know if he realizes how much a following and push that he gets as well. I think it’s good that NASCAR is pushing the younger demographic, we need the younger fans. We need to keep getting those fans. But you shouldn’t have to rely on NASCAR to go all your social and your reach out for you. We have such great platforms to be able to do things like that with. If he feels that way, that he’s frustrated, he should use his platforms to go after that fan base himself.”

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Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.