NASCAR’s Ryan Blaney Reflects on Early Career in Grassroots Racing

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Seven-time NASCAR Cup series winner Ryan Blaney looks like a natural amongst the circuit’s highest competition, but he began as a grassroots small-track warrior. The son of veteran NASCAR competitor and 1995 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion Dave Blaney, Ryan sharpened his skills at small tracks across the Southeast growing up. He remembers his time with outfits like the Pro All Stars Series South fondly.

“When I started running late models at 14 years old, dad was off racing on the Cup side, and these guys that I was racing around, some of them were double or triple my age,” Blaney recalled, speaking at a NASCAR event recently.

“They kind of raise you on the weekends, kind of like a second family. You go back and you realize just how important those tracks were and those people were.”

Around 2010 and 2011, Blaney claimed victories all over the region, from Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina, to North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway; from Tennessee’s Newport Speedway, to South Carolina’s Dillon Motor Speedway. In 2011, Blaney won the Pro All Stars Series South championship by 24 points ahead of Jay Fogleman. In 2012, Blaney was winning races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. A few short years later, Ryan Blaney now finds himself one of NASCAR’s fastest-rising drivers in the Next-Gen era.

Ryan Blaney Would Consider Returning to Grassroots Racing When His NASCAR Responsibilities Wane

“I can’t remember one particular moment; there were a lot of really good ones,” Blaney said about memories of his early racing days. “Just racing hard with a lot of really good guys back in the day. The Preston Peltiers, Ben Rowes, and getting into scuffles with them. I saw Preston a couple years ago and we laughed about it; and we’re really good friends. It’s fun to look back on those things and really reminisce.

“They taught me a lot about racing, all those guys whether they were twice my age or my age. I made a lot of good memories with them. Just really neat to be a part of a traveling series week in and week out and you make friends and hopefully not that many enemies.”

Blaney also said he’s not against the possibility of returning to his roots to race a Super Late Model at some point in the future.

“I wouldn’t mind,” Blaney said. “I’m so removed from the Super Late Model world. I haven’t run those things in so long. I don’t even know what cars are good nowadays.”

“I’d love to go back and run a little bit. Just kind of hard to do it currently. I’d love to maybe jump in it. I’m working on trying to branch out and just kind of run some local stuff. I know [sponsor] Advance Auto Parts would love it.”