RYAN BLANEY PRESS CONFERENCE
RYAN BLANEY - #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion - DO YOU HAVE A GAME PLAN FOR THE PLAYOFFS? "I really don't have a huge game plan. My team and I sat down this week and we talked about things. What differences you're gonna do or what the game plan is and I think the best thing you can do is just race like you have all year. The intensity level does rise when you get into the Playoffs, and there's a lot more take than there is give, especially based on the regular season, but I don't think we change our mindset up too much. It's just racing at the end of the day. It's the same thing we've been doing for 25 weeks and I think if you change it last minute, that can throw everybody for a loop. I think our team is working really great together right now. They're doing a really great job of communicating and I feel like our cars are getting back to where they need to be to run well, so hopefully we can apply that for the final 10 here. That would be pretty neat."
DO YOU FEEL THERE IS AN UNDERDOG VIBE WITH YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "Yeah, I feel like there's an underdog vibe, especially with us three (Stenhouse and Dillon). I know our team, for sure, has been called an underdog, dark horse, all that stuff, and that's great. Our team doesn't have as many wins as some other cars. There are other teams that have been really strong this year. There are three that I can think of that have really shown up and kind of dominated the regular season, and I think if we just clean up some stuff on our end, we can be right up there with them too and just find a little bit of performance, but I don't really mind being called an underdog or dark horse and anything like that. That means if you exceed expectations you kind of know that it's even that much cooler and better when you can do that. I don't mind being called that, but I do think we are viewed as that."
DO YOU FEEL THERE IS LESS PRESSURE ON YOU? "I don't really feel any pressure and I don't think that comes as being called an underdog or anything like that. If we won eight races throughout the normal season, and we're going into the Playoffs, I still wouldn't really feel any pressure. I don't think it would be any different. It's just a great opportunity and really excited to be a part of the Playoffs with the Wood Brothers. It's my first Playoffs. It's the Wood Brothers' very first time. There are a lot of members on my team that it's their first time ever competing for a championship, so we're all just really excited. I don't think there are any nerves just because we don't know what to expect. If we can have the mindset that it's just racing, because that's all it is and it's nothing different that what we've been doing, I think that will be pretty good. But I don't really feel any pressure. I hate to use that word. I hate to hear that word, to be honest with you, but I've never really felt any of that, just good opportunities."
HAVE YOU LOOKED AHEAD TO CHICAGO AT THE EXPENSE OF SOME RACES IN BETWEEN? "Yeah, definitely. I will say that our cars haven't been as fast as let's say the 78 or the 18 or the 42 at times and that's just facts. They've been really fast this year and they've done a great job, but at times I feel like we've been able to compete with them. You've seen it at Pocono and Kansas we had a great run, and a couple other tracks where we've been able to be up close to them. But these Playoff cars are always getting built and our Chicago car has been in the works for a long time. They're constantly changing, whether it's setup stuff or body or modifications they find throughout the week. We're changing stuff today, just last-minute things that the aero group finds or the engineers find that we think will be better. Hopefully, we can get some of that performance to where we can compete with those guys every single lap. I know the last couple months we haven't had the best of runs, and that's really not a lot of car performance, but things not happening our way or taking more chances than we probably should after we got a win at Pocono just because we could do that and take more chances of trying to win races or stages and them not playing out for us. It's hard to kind of see where you stack up before Chicago. Even Darlington, the last mile-and-a-half, it's hard to really even see where you line up there because it's such a unique race track and Richmond is hard to kind of tell. Until we get out for first practice you don't really know, but I think we have some great upgrades, so hopefully we can get a little bit better and see, but we won't know for a few more days."
WILL IT HELP HAVING BRAD AS A RESOURCE? "Yeah, Brad has been a great mentor to me. I look up to him a lot and I have a lot of respect for Brad. It would be neat to be able to be competing against him for a championship. That's a touchy situation because obviously we want all Fords to win, and the main goal is to get a Ford to win a championship, whether that's my car, if I can't do it I want Brad to do it, if he can't do it we want a Stewart-Haas car or Stenhouse to win it. That's just the main goal over there, but obviously we're worried about you want to be the driver that wins the championship for them. You don't want to see another Ford driver win. You want to be the top guy over there. Brad and I will help each other a lot throughout the Playoffs and trying to just help overall speed in our cars, but as far as giving each other spots on the race track, they're a competitor too, so we'll help each other out a lot and try to figure out how to make both of our cars faster, but they're just another competitor to be honest with you at the end of the day. You might race them a little bit nicer than I would let's say the 18 car, but it's just at the end of the day you're trying to beat them also. But we do a great job of comparing notes and trying to get the team better because that's what we want."
WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED ABOUT EXPERIENCING IN THE PLAYOFFS? "I'm just excited to be a part of it. Last year you could see the intensity ramp up, but I wasn't a part of it. This year being a part of it, I am really excited to see and race around drivers who are running for a championship and being one of them also and seeing how that intensity level raises around them. That's what I'm very excited for. I'm looking forward to seeing what changes because I love the competition side. I like to see what everyone can do behind a wheel. I like to see drivers drive and to be a part of everyone driving their absolute hardest for 10 weeks because it's not gonna start halfway through the Playoffs, it starts at Chicago and that level stays the same throughout the whole time. I think that's what I'm most looking forward to, that and these last 10 races are my last 10 for the Wood Brothers as far as I know of, so that is gonna be really special to try to finish it off strong with them, whether I'm making a great championship run or winning number 100. I really want to do that for them, so those are two areas I'm really looking forward to."
THE WOOD BROTHERS ARE LOOKING FOR THEIR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP SINCE 1963. "That's pretty special when you look back on it and think about that they've never really been able to accomplish that. They're first time being in the Playoff system is really cool to have done that for them, and just to give them a shot. As a kid, and I'm sure the Wood Brothers would tell you the same thing, as they were growing up all they wanted was to A, win races and B, be able to have a shot at winning a championship and that's what I wanted to do when I was watching my dad race and growing up around the race track. I think that has been very special for everybody, but I haven't put a ton of thought into that. The Wood Brothers have never been in this spot before and we just want a shot at it. I know they've had shots at it in previous years. I'm not saying they never had a shot at it, but in the Playoff system it's pretty cool to be a part of and to be a driver for them, to have a possibility of bringing them a championship makes me excited to get going."
IS YOUTH A HANDICAP IN THE PLAYOFFS? "I don't think so. The experience level isn't there as let's say a Jimmie Johnson or a Matt Kenseth, who have been a part of these Playoffs for a very long time and who have won championships. That might be a disadvantage, the experience level, but I think having the youth on your side you're always just kind of on kill all the time, and I think that's what these Playoffs are about. I don't think that's a bad thing to be, so there are two ways of looking at things, but at the end of the day, like I said before, it's just racing and it's really no different drivers than what you've been racing against all year and what I've always raced against, so they do have experience on their side, and that might benefit them for sure, but I think expectation is just really not there for us. We just have curiosity and excitement to be here, and I think that's a really big asset too is we're a very young team and our inspiration is the Wood Brothers and to win a championship. So it kind of goes hand in hand, I guess."
ANY EXTRA CARS OR DOUBLED UP EFFORTS GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS? "Not really. I know some teams have swapped pit crews around, but we have our same guys and I think that's the best way to do it. Our pit crew does so well all year that I don't think you change them up. I don't think that makes them feel very good. If you are a pit crew who deserves to be a Playoff team and you get thrown off to another car, I don't know how I'd feel about that, but I don't really think we've changed much. Like I said, the preparation for the cars is way more, you go throughout that the whole week. We'll change stuff. I think the trucks will probably leave tonight to go to Chicago, and I'm sure they were changing things this morning on my race car. They find stuff at the last-minute, so that prep work that goes into the cars weeks out, weeks prior to the race is definitely intensified too - just like the racing."
DOES THIS GIVE YOU A BOOST JUST TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS? "Yeah, that part was very neat after Richmond to stand up there with 15 other drivers and get your picture taken with the trophy and realize, 'Hey, I deserve to be here too.' Our team deserves this opportunity and this chance to be here. That was very special for me. I've wanted to be a part of that ever since they started that and I saw it as a kid. It was neat to be up there with some people you looked up to as a kid as well as some of the younger drivers that you're competing against, so that part was really neat to me to do after Richmond."
IS IT INTIMIDATING TO YOU AT ALL? "Not really. I don't really get intimidated. These drivers are people just like us. I've watched them when I was younger. I've watched a lot of them. I've been big fans of a lot of them when I was younger growing up in this sport, and I just think it's really neat. I don't really feel any pressure or if I'm intimidated by anybody. I feel like once you kind of feel like that you're out of the game and you take your head out of the game, so everyone is a racer and I don't think the intimidation factor is anything that really concerns me too much."
--- Ford Performance ---