Love is in the air among NASCAR drivers (and their sisters)

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CHARLOTTE – An unsuspecting Ryan Blaney was walking to the drivers meeting at Martinsville Speedway last October when a friend hit him with some major family news.

“My buddy’s like, ‘Hey I didn’t know about Willy and your sister,’ ” Blaney recently recalled in an interview with NASCAR on NBC’s Rutledge Wood. “And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ”

Oh.

Well, Ryan, your younger sister, Erin, is dating someone you might now.

William Byron.

The guy who drives the No. 24 Chevrolet that you might be slamming fenders with on NASCAR’s shortest track in a couple of hours.

“Oh gosh,” Byron said when recently told how Ryan Blaney had learned the news. “Man. No wonder he raced me so hard that day. I should have handled that better.”

Though somewhat upset to have learned secondhand, Blaney resisted the temptation of immediately telling Byron he knew, saving it for a card game later (“It was a little awkward that he actually brought it up first,” Byron said.).

“I really wanted to mess with him before the race and really tell him that I slyly figured it out, but I didn’t,” Blaney said. “I texted Erin first. ‘I think you forgot to tell me some news.’

“I mean, people always ask me, ‘Are you mad that Will is dating your sister?’ I don’t care, she’s 22 and can do whatever she wants. And I like him. So it’s all good.”

But the blossoming romance has rekindled discussions about love in the fast lane involving parties who will be on opposing ends for roughly three hours every weekend over the next 10 months.

NASCAR featured the most high-profile romance in racing history when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became an item shortly before they began battling for the 2013 Cup rookie of the year. They made it through five seasons together despite wrecking each other a few times.

How will Blaney and Byron handle the unusual ties that indirectly will bind them this year?

“Oh, that is a hot topic in the garage,” Corey LaJoie said with a laugh. “That is the ultimate mind games you can play, too. I am sure that gets in (Blaney’s) head a little bit just thinking about it when he lines up next to (Byron) on a restart. You can’t wreck your sister’s boyfriend. You can’t do it!”


There are those who view dating a competitor’s sister as having an inherent upper hand behind the wheel.

“Knowing that he knows, that’s the best part,” Clint Bowyer said. “Oh, I would love it.

“Whatever happens on the track, guess what? I’m going home with your sister! I mean, it’s done. What is he going to say?”

Others were less on board with the concept, notably Jimmie Johnson after learning Blaney discovered the truth before Martinsville. “Great track to do that,” Johnson deadpanned. “I don’t think I would do it. That whole category seems to be trouble.”

“I could see some conflict there,” Erik Jones said. “I try to avoid conflict.”

There is a long history, though, of drivers who started long-term relationships in the pits, particularly some well-documented examples in NASCAR.

Kyle Larson married the former Katelyn Sweet, the sister of Brad Sweet, who had raced with Larson on dirt tracks for years.

“Been there, done that,” Larson said. “It’s worked out for all of us.”

Any advice he’d offer the newest happy couple?

“No, because I want to see everything that happens,” Larson said. “William has a sister, and Blaney could probably work on that. Then it gets extra weird!

“Or maybe it gets less weird. I don’t know.”

William Byron (right) and Ryan Blaney were racing in close quarters Oct. 27 at Martinsville Speedway, where Blaney had learned hours earlier that Byron was dating his younger sister (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images).

It was weird for Daniel Suarez when he began dating the sister of former F1 and NASCAR driver Nelson Piquet Jr., one of the few friends he had shortly after moving to America several years ago.

I couldn’t really communicate with a lot of people because I only spoke Spanish, so at the time the only people I was able to get along with spoke Spanish or something similar,” Suarez said. “I used to hang out a lot with Nelson Piquet and some Brazilian drivers. And then I met Nelson’s sister and then I’m dating her. He didn’t find it too fantastic when he found out.”

Alex Bowman can relate from having dated the sister of Chad Boat, whom he raced often on dirt.

“I really like Chad, and I thought Chad really liked me,” Bowman said with a laugh. “I don’t think he does anymore. I think that adds a very awkward element to a lot of things, and I’m here for it. I love sitting back and watching it.”

Aric Almirola knows the complications of dating within a team member’s family from another perspective. He is married to the former Janice Goss. She is the daughter of Randy Goss, who was Almriola’s crew chief for four Xfinity races in 2005.

“You know what kind of nerves go into when you date your crew chief’s daughter,” Almirola said. “Can you imagine if something goes haywire or wrong, and you get in a fight or break up, and she cries to her daddy about how you treated her wrong – and he’s your crew chief?

“I was committed.”

Joey Logano said that’s the right standard to apply when dating a rival driver’s sister.

“You’re assuming a lot of risk, so it’s got to be worth it,” the 2018 champion said. “She’s gotta be like smoking and really cool. This is like you see her and you’re like, ‘This might be the one.’ This isn’t like, ‘I’m going to date you for a little bit and maybe we’ll end up together.’

“Because the risk you’re taking is you’re going to get backed in the fence a few times, probably. If someone dated my sister and I competed against them and if it ever went wrong, that car would be (damaged) all the time.”

Though it could make for “some ugly Thanksgiving dinners,” Austin Dillon also believes there’s a power shift if the relationship becomes permanent. “The guy that has the sister holds the upper hand if they’re married,” Dillon said.

Kevin Harvick, who “absolutely” would have dated a competitor’s sister when he was younger, said the dynamics are unique in Byron’s case.

“He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet,” Harvick said. “I think that’s a different situation.”


It seems to have gone well so far for Blaney and Byron, who joined an annual offseason holiday trip with his girlfriend, her brother and their friends (including Bubba Wallace).

“We rent a big house and just go hang out,” Blaney said. “And we had made this plan before they started dating. She’d sent a text to our group chat, like, ‘Hey do you mind if Willy B. comes?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t care. It’s fine.’ We had a good time. He was a little shy at first, not really knowing a ton of people in our group, but he’s a good guy.”

There has been one awkward moment, though.

Byron made his relationship Instagram official on Nov. 24, thanking Erin Blaney for a lovely time in Asheville, North Carolina.

Blaney posted to Instagram that day, too – a black and white self-portrait in which he cradled a shotgun while donning a state trooper-style hat pulled down on his forehead. He stared into a fire pit with a wry grin.

The caption read, “Turkey week,” but it naturally was interpreted as being much more than a Thanksgiving coincidence.

“That had people going nuts,” Byron said, smiling. “I was a little scared, too, to be honest.”

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Turkey week.

A post shared by Ryan Blaney (@ryanblaney10) on

Blaney also playfully commented on Byron’s photo with an emoji of a knife and coffin, but there were no hard feelings.

That was a relief to those in Cup who want “the Blyrons” to succeed.

“Full support on that one,” Chase Elliott said. “I hope it ends well. I’m pulling for them. I really am. They are both really good people.”

As a Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Byron and a buddy of Blaney’s, Elliott has a unique perspective on the relationship. But the two-time Most Popular Driver is particular about keeping tabs through only one source.

“I just ask Ryan because I want him to tell me the update,” Elliott said. “He’s in the know. He’s a blood brother there.”

Blaney said communicating directly with family is how he would have done it if he were dating a competitor’s sister.

“That’s kind of the gentleman thing to do, not just kind of slide in there,” Blaney said. “These kids nowadays, they probably just go behind someone’s back, but I’d ask that competitor first. ‘Hey, do you mind if I take your sister on a date?’

“The nice way to do it. Especially if they’re a competitor you see every weekend. It’s an easy knock on the bus.”

Much better than a blindside on the way to the drivers meeting.

Stay tuned next week for Rutledge Wood’s interviews with Byron, Blaney and many other drivers about dating a competitor’s sister as the popular “Rut’s Basement” feature returns to NASCAR America.

Bristol Truck race results, driver points

Bristol Truck race results
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Sam Mayer scored his first career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series win Thursday night. The 17-year-old finished ahead of GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt.

Mayer is the youngest driver to win a Truck race at Bristol.

Tanner Gray placed third and was followed by Parker Kligerman and Chandler Smith.

Gray’s finished tied a career high. Kligerman’s finish was his best this season.

Trevor Bayne crossed the finish line fifth but his truck was disqualified for failing post-race heights in inspection.

The next race in the playoffs is Sept. 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Click here for race results

POINTS

Brett Moffitt leads the points after the opening race in the first round of the playoffs. He leads Sheldon Creed by nine points. Zane Smith trails Moffitt by 12 points.

Click here for points report

17-year-old Sam Mayer wins first NASCAR Truck race

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Sam Mayer passed GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt with 30 laps to go and went on to score his first career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series win Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The victory came in the seventh career Truck start for the 17-year-old Mayer. The win also came a few days after JR Motorsports announced that Mayer would drive for the team in the second half of the 2021 Xfinity Series, once he turns 18.

“I love this place,” Mayer told FS1 after the 200-lap race. “I don’t know what to say.”

Mayer was helped by having tires that were 52 laps fresher than Moffitt’s tires.

MORE: Race results 

Mayer is not competing in the playoffs and does not advance to the second round. He said he has two more Truck races left to run this season.

Mayer followed his Truck win by taking the checkered flag in the ARCA Menards Series race that followed Thursday night.

Moffitt, who is competing in the playoffs, finished second. He was followed by Tanner Gray and Parker Kligerman.

Trevor Bayne finished fifth but his Truck was disqualified after the race for failing inspection. His truck failed post-race heights. Chandler Smith finished fifth after Bayne’s disqualification.

Moffitt was one of only four playoff drivers to finish in the top 10. Grant Enfinger was sixth. Tyler Ankrum placed seventh. Matt Crafton was 10th.

Mayer is the second youngest winner in series history. Cole Custer is the youngest winner in series history. Custer was 16 years, 7 months, 28 days when he won in Sept. 2014 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Mayer becomes the youngest Truck winner at Bristol at 17 years, 2 months, 22 days. Ryan Blaney had held that record, winning a 2015 race there at age 21 years, 4 months, 19 days.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

STAGE 2 WINNER: Tyler Ankrum

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray’s third-place finish tied his career best. He finished third at Michigan earlier this season. … Parker Kligerman’s fourth-place finish is his best of the season while running a limited schedule.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Austin Hill finished 26th, worst among the playoff drivers. He had contact on Lap 2 with Stewart Friesen.

NOTABLE: Trevor Bayne said that four weeks ago he didn’t know if he would be racing again at Bristol. He crossed the finish line fifth but his truck failed inspection after the race and was disqualified.

NEXT: The second race of the opening round of the playoffs is at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Texas Motor Speedway to host polling site for election

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Residents and race fans in parts of North Texas will be able to cast their vote in the upcoming election at their local NASCAR track.

Texas Motor Speedway will be a polling site for the Nov. 3 election.

The track, owned by Speedway Motorsports, will serve as a polling site for the residents of Precinct 4048. That precinct includes a large portion of Denton County and Forth Worth, Texas.

The polling site will be in the Lone Star Tower Condominium Clubhouse just outside Turn 2. It will be open from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET on election day.

More: Upcoming Cup playoffs races can fans attend

“In anticipation of a very high voter turnout for the presidential election, we have been working for months to acquire polling sites throughout the county,” Frank Phillips, Denton County Elections Administrator, said in a press release. “We are excited that Texas Motor Speedway has offered the use of the Lone Star Tower Clubhouse as a polling site.”

Local, state and CDC guidelines will be followed to ensure a sanitized, safe and socially distanced voter experience.

TMS is the first track that hosts NASCAR Cup races to announce its plans for use as a polling site. It joins sporting venues for other major sports in doing so.

A number of NBA arenas and practice facilities will be voting locations, as well as select NFL stadiums and NHL arenas.

Travis Pastrana, Conor Daly set for Las Vegas Truck Series race

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Action sports star Travis Pastrana and IndyCar driver Conor Daly are teaming up with Niece Motorsports to compete in the upcoming Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

With the backing of iRacing, who made the announcement Thursday, the duo will drive the No. 42 and No. 45 Chevrolets in the Sept. 25 race.

Pastrana and Daly’s involvement is a continuation of their rivalry in the LCQ League, a private iRacing league featuring motorsports and action sports legends having fun in cars from all disciplines.

For Pastrana, a former Roush Fenway Racing driver, it will be his fifth career Truck start and his second of the year after he competed in the July 25 race at Kansas Speedway. He finished 22nd.

“I’m really looking forward to bringing our rivalry from the LCQ League to the real world,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’ve been getting lots of advice and iRacing on-track coaching from fellow LCQ member Parker Kligerman. I’m looking forward to seeing how the hours in iRacing pay off on the track, especially for Conor who has never driven a NASCAR truck in real life. He might be the first person in history to jump into a professional racing series and take the green flag without so much as a single practice lap in real life! Conor is a phenomenal IndyCar driver and a quick learner so I think he will surprise a lot of people.”

It will be the first Truck Series start for Daly, who has 61 IndyCar starts since 2013. Daly made his NASCAR debut in 2018 at Road America driving for Roush in the Xfinity Series.

“I could not be more excited to jump in a Gander Outdoor Series truck for the first time ever in Las Vegas!” Daly said in a press release “This will be one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever faced in my career as it will be the first event I’ve ever done where I’ve never driven a single lap in the Chevy Silverado before taking the green flag for the race. Travis and I have been going head to head on iRacing getting as much practice as possible since that’s the best possible form of preparation we have!