Pressure can crush rocks, but it also can create diamonds.
Ryan Blaney has handled big expectations for a sparkling start to his NASCAR career.
Blaney will look to repeat his performance last September at Iowa Speedway when he returns to the Newton track for the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series Fan Appreciation 200 presented by New Holland on Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m. Practice and qualifying are Saturday.
Blaney became the youngest winner in series history at 18 when he reached victory lane at this race in 2012.
The 19-year-old from Concord, N.C., was recognized as one of NASCAR’s future stars, being selected to the NASCAR Next 9 in 2012. He also has to contend with being the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney, but he doesn’t shy away from the challenge.
“I never really felt it as pressure as much as opportunity to make the best of the situation,” Blaney said. “I found it as motivation to do better. If they aren’t supportive, prove them wrong. If they are, show I can do it.
“Actually, it’s always been a confidence booster for me.”
He doesn’t mind the comparisons to his dad. After all, the older Blaney has more than 450 Sprint Cup starts and more than 100 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The third-generation driver strives to be the best in his family, and overall.
“I just want to keep progressing and get better, and hopefully exceed the level he has,” said Blaney, whose late grandfather, Lou, was an accomplished sprint car driver. “That would be incredible.”
Auto racing has always been a shared love for the family. Blaney said he spends 90-percent of the NASCAR season with his dad, split between their home and the race track. It means a lot to have someone to talk with about auto racing every hour of the day and each day during the week, even though their opinions occasionally clash.
“It was huge,” Blaney said. “Not a lot of families can do that. I’ve been fortunate to have a dad who knows what is going on and help me out, working on the car. We’ve had a lot of late nights working on the cars.”
As much as his father has influenced and assisted in his development, Blaney has moved into a beneficial situation, racing for Brad Keselowski Racing, owned by the defending Sprint Cup points champion. Blaney said it is “cool” racing for Keselowski and that he picks Keselowski’s brain about racing as much as possible, gaining advice applied on and off the track.
“I’m lucky to say that it’s the best to have an owner that is also a driver,” Blaney said. “He knows what is going on and the behind-the-scenes things. He’s very involved with the team.”
Blaney sits seventh in the points standings before this weekend. He has five top-five finishes and eight in the top-10. Blaney earned his second career victory at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway to open August, winning the same weekend Keselowski won the Nationwide U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. The weekend, and his first win after switching from Dodge to Ford manufacturers, keeps providing a boost.
“We’re still rolling on that Pocono win,” Blaney said. “The confidence level is still up with our team.”
Previous success at Iowa Speedway helps as well. The combination a good truck, a solid driver and things playing out in their favor produced a memorable performance last year. Blaney said a repeat is possible, despite a less successful performance here in July.
“I was already very comfortable with the race track. I had a really fast truck right from the start of practice,” said Blaney, who has raced at Iowa Speedway in different circuits, serving as a last-minute replacement in June’s Nationwide race for Team Penske. “We’re going to start close to how we were last year. I think we’ll have a really good shot.”