RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang – WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE LIKE AT THE START OF THE RACE ON SUNDAY? "I think it’s going to be a little tough jumping back into the swing of things after, I think I counted, 62 days off it will be and jumping in at probably the most difficult track that we go to and just lining up and racing, so that will be tough, but I feel like everyone will be pretty responsible getting going, being smart. Even though it’s not a super-long race, you’ve still got time to work on your car, especially at the competition caution. They’re giving a lot of time to kind of make wholesale adjustments if you need them, so I feel like everyone will take it easy for the first little bit, but, honestly, the muscle memory of everybody is pretty good, so once you get one run in and things like that I think we’ll be back to normal."
WITHOUT PRACTICE OR QUALIFYING WILL THE START BE A DISADVANTAGE FOR YOU AND TOOD SINCE YOU’RE STILL TRYING TO LEARN EACH OTHER? "Maybe a little bit. I feel like a lot of people will be at disadvantages, just having the type of track it’s going to be, it’s going to be a green race track, so the track will change a lot throughout the day. As far as me and Todd go, I feel like we’ve communicated great right off the truck at every track this year the first run of practice and I just kind of look at it like that. It’s just a little bit different scenario because we will be racing people, but at the end of the day you’ve got to be able to quickly tell them what it’s doing to go work on it, so I don’t feel like it’s anymore of a disadvantage for us than anybody else out there with no practice time."
HOW DO YOU FEEL AS FAR AS THE PROCEDURES NASCAR HAS PUT IN PLACE WITH A TEMPERATURE TEST AND NO COVID-19 TEST? AND ARE YOU COMFORTABLE IF SOMEBODY GOT SICK THE SPORT COULD STILL GO ON? "That’s a tough deal. NASCAR has been doing a good job of putting some pretty good procedures in place to make sure everyone is healthy before we even get into the race track, and then throughout the weekend in quarantining the crew, the spotters, the drivers, the over-the-wall guys. I think they’ve done a pretty decent job at it. We’ve got a call with them tomorrow about some final procedures that are going on, which I’m looking forward to, but I feel confident in NASCAR. We have to be really careful and safe, and I feel like everyone has been doing the best that they can in making sure that you don’t get sick and then expose other people, so I’m confident in the procedures that they have put in place for us and, hopefully, everyone is healthy and nothing happens in that way."
WHAT IS YOUR RACE DAY ROUTINE GOING TO BE LIKE? "I don’t think it will be really any different, whether you’re driving to the track being by yourself. My family sometimes come to them, but my procedure won’t be any different. You just get in the car on race day and you drive to the track. The only thing different, obviously, is no practice or qualifying and not being able to go in the garage and not seeing all your guys. That’s gonna be a little bit different. The first time I’m gonna talk to them will be on the radio, so that will be a little bit different, but you’ve got to take it in stride. You’ve got to understand what they’re trying to do and be safe, but as far as my routine goes it’s gonna be different, but you try to make it as normal as possible in getting yourself ready to go."
HOW MUCH COMMUNICATION HAVE YOU HAD WITH YOUR CREW CHIEF? "I’ve been talking to Todd a good bit. We have a big group chat with all our team, trying to give everyone updates and see what everyone has been up to and how their families are doing and things like that, but we actually were able to go to the Ford sim last week. It was very cautious the way we did it. I felt like we did a good job of limiting people there and people in certain rooms, but it was nice to be able to talk to them in person from a distance for a little bit there at the Ford sim, but I think it’s been fine. Obviously, it’s different not being able to go into the race shop, a lot of people haven’t been in the race shop in two months. I went to the shop yesterday to sit in my Darlington car and we did it outside and it was me and one other person. We were all facemasked up and making sure you were really safe, but I didn’t step foot in the shop. That’s the way they have it right now, so it’s been a little odd but the communication has been the best it can be."
ARE YOU CONCERNED OR DO YOU THINK OTHER DRIVERS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT ALL THE GOING BACK AND FORTH FROM DARLINGTON AND CHARLOTTE ABOUT SPREADING THE VIRUS? "I’m not really concerned if we stay safe, if we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing these past two months of being kind of locked in and quarantined – just being smart about it. With the way it’s gonna go on Sunday, I’m gonna get to the race track that morning, sit in my motorhome, and then when it’s time to go out there I’m walking right to my car and when I’m done I’m walking right back. There’s gonna be really limited contact and I feel like everyone is doing a lot of things to try to make sure everyone is safe, not only at the race track of testing everybody, but in our shop every day this past week. When guys go into our race shop they test them just to make sure that they’re OK to be around a limited amount of people. I’m not concerned. I feel like we’re gonna do the best we can to try to make sure nothing spreads like that, but I don’t think the back and forth should cause a huge issue because I think everyone is gonna be pretty separated in their cars, on their personal vehicles and things like that. You can only hope. That’s what you hope for. At the end of the day, you just have to be smart about everything and be as safe as you can. NASCAR has been doing a good thing, I think, to keep it that way."
WHERE ARE YOU NOW? YOU’RE OUTSIDE AND IT LOOKS NICE. "I’m in my yard. If I’m in my house I don’t have any reception, so I have to step outside whenever I do calls. I’ve got the perfect quarantine setup. I’ve got a decent amount of land over here north of Mooresville. My dog has been happy I’ve been home a lot, but just trying to figure out new things. I’ve been at dad’s shop a little bit. He’s got this new business building trailers that I’ve been helping him out with. Around here I’ve got a decent amount of acres, so it keeps me busy just doing different little projects and things like that. It’s been the best that it can be, but it’s been nice to finally count down the days here and weeks to finally get back racing. You miss your crew guys. That’s your second family and I miss seeing all those guys and their families. It stinks. I won’t be able to see half of them for a while, but it’s the best you can be."
WITH NO PRACTICE IT’S GOING TO BE A CHALLENGE. DO YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA PRESSURE TO NOT MESS THIS OPPORTUNITY UP? "Like I said before, I think everybody is gonna be pretty cautious to make sure that doesn’t happen. There are gonna be a lot of eyes on our sport and a lot of eyes that haven’t watched our sport maybe before. I feel like it goes back to the iRacing deal and seeing all the people that maybe never watched or new eyes that haven’t watched racing before or them watching the iRacing thing. I feel like when we’re gonna come back we’re one of the very, very few sports that are back and a lot of people are gonna be watching, so it’s gonna be a really big day on Sunday to make sure we put on a good show, not do anything too bad like going into turn one and wrecking 20 cars. I feel like we’re all professional enough not to do that. It’s a long race. Everyone know what’s at stake of making not only NASCAR look good, but making our sponsors look good as well. They’re going through hard times just like everybody else with their companies, so it’s really big that they’ve stuck with everybody and it’s really important to give them a good showing, too. There’s always that possibility. That’s the random factor where you never know what can happen, but I feel like at the same time all of us are going to be very courteous to one another, especially getting going, and making sure we don’t do anything foolish early on to make it look really bad. But I have confidence in the whole field. They’re all really good drivers and I think we’ll be ready to put on a good show."
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE THERE GOING INTO RACE MODE WITH NO PRACTICE OR QUALIFYING? "I think with all the simulation and technology we have nowadays, you go back and look at last year’s setup and cars and things like that, it’s the same package we ran last year so I feel like you can take that information and kind of transfer it over and say, ‘OK, this is how we started the race. This is how we ended the race, so let’s go somewhere in between.’ Or what you think you’re gonna go. Todd and my engineers have been working really hard on the sim stuff. Ever since we figured out Darlington was gonna be our first race they’ve been working non-stop, really via the internet to kind of work on simulation and things like that. It’s not like back 20 years ago when there really wasn’t any of that, so I feel like you have a little bit better idea just from the technology side of kind of how you need to be. Now saying that, you could always be way off. You never know what could happen as far as your setups, your track temp or your tires or things like that, but I feel like you can get it fairly close – you would hope at least – just because of all the technology and all the work that those guys have and just looking back at previous races and data and things like that."
WILL YOUR QUARANTINE BEARD AND MUSTACHE STILL BE AROUND ON SUNDAY OR HAS TEAM PENSKE RELAXED ITS RULES? "I was waiting on that. I was gonna give it a shot and I have a video with Advance Auto Parts today that me and my dad are doing. My dad specifically told me that if I had my moustache he would not do it, so I have to shave it. He said, ‘I’m not sitting next to my son, who looks 10 years older than me.’ I was like, ‘Well, I was just trying to make you look younger, dad.’ He didn’t buy that, so it will not be there, unfortunately. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted."
— Ford Performance —