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The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Ryan Blaney of Team Penske. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but are also transcribed for those who prefer to read.
1. Are you an iPhone person or an Android person, and why?
I am an iPhone person. I don’t think I ever had an Android. I had a (Motorola) Razr was my first phone — a flip phone. I actually had a Blackberry for a little bit, it was like my second phone. And then I just had an iPhone ever since.
I don’t really know why. I think they’re just pretty easy to use. I see ads for other phones, Androids and stuff like that, and I’ve just never really thought of switching. They get a bad rap (from Apple users). You know, iPhone people give Android users a hard time with the green bubble (text) message, and I’ve never really gotten that. Like it’s his phone. Who cares about what it is or not?
But I’ve stayed with an iPhone, it’s what I’ve known for the longest time and I don’t want to relearn a new software.
So green bubble message doesn’t bother you?
No, I don’t mind it.
It annoys me.
It bothers you? Really? What’s the downside to it?
You can’t see whether it was delivered, you can’t see if it was read, it just pops up and you’re like, “Did it get there?”
Yeah, I see you on that, but it just has never really bothered me. You can’t judge someone for what they’ve got on their phone.
2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?
Signing something is easy. Let’s say you want to sign a hero card. You can walk and sign a hero card and chat with them at the same time you’re signing with them; that’s the easiest part, so you kind of get the two in one.
The selfie thing I prefer. I like taking pictures with people, because I see a lot of stuff I signed for fans at the racetrack end up on the Internet. I’m like, “Oh, you just want me to sign this so you can turn around and sell it?” So people who want photos, it’s a lot more intimate. They are actually a big fan of you, they like it.
But they’ve got to learn how to learn how to use their phones. (Laughs) Going back to phones, I can’t tell you how many times guys are like, “Can I have a selfie?” I’m like “Yeah,” but he doesn’t have his phone out yet and doesn’t know how to work the camera. I’m like, “I’ll do it.”
But I like them all, but it just depends. I can get you an autograph and chat with you while you’re walking, which is great, or I’ll stop and take a selfie. But the only advice I have on the selfie stuff is to have your phone out and ready and know where the button is to take the photo.
Do you see cars you sign on eBay and stuff like that?
Yeah, sometimes. It’s out there and people do it. Some folks want you to sign with a certain color, especially on hero cards. I’m a black Sharpie guy and use a silver Sharpie for windshields. When people ask me to do blue Sharpie on a hero card — I don’t mind like gold Sharpies on windshields because it looks cool if it’s the right color car; I think it will look neat — but when they hand you their own blue Sharpie to sign that hero card, I’m like, “You’re selling this.”
3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?
I think you can compare it because most of the bad moves that people pull are unintentional. On the racetrack and on the road, sometimes they just don’t see you, they make a mistake, it’s usually not malicious. Other times it is, and I feel like it crosses over, too.
I hate on the street — it absolutely drives me insane — when someone pulls out right in front of you. I mean, right in front of you and you’re slamming on the brakes, they don’t even give you a wave or nothing like, “Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” It infuriates me.
So yeah, I think it can compare, but most of the time I feel like it’s unintentional. But there are some times where people are actually being jerks on the racetrack and on the street. The other part about that is race car drivers, we do this professionally — so we’re supposed to be good at it. But drivers on the road, you don’t know their comfort level and there’s a lot more variation in their skills behind the wheel.
4. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had a sketchy situation with your safety equipment?
Not really, not that I can think of. When I was young, I flipped a quarter midget pretty hard and the whole side of my helmet was almost scraped off from hitting it on the pavement, but it did its job. So that was interesting. But no, never like a failure, never like a belt coming loose or tearing or anything like that. So that side’s been pretty good to me.
5. If your team put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?
I’m kind of torn on that. I don’t really know. We don’t do that over here at Team Penske.
I don’t think I’d want to know about it. I mean, why should I know about it? I wouldn’t want to know. You can’t really get away with that stuff anymore, the super secret illegal parts. NASCAR finds that stuff pretty quick. But let me focus on what my car is doing just like a normal weekend. I don’t want that in the back of my mind: “Oh we’re going to get caught, we’re going to get caught.” I just wouldn’t want to think about that.
Plus, if the media comes to you later and you got caught, you can say, “I didn’t know.”
Exactly. And I wouldn’t be lying if I didn’t know about it, so it’s good. I’d feel better inside.
6. What is a food you would not recommend eating right before a race and are you speaking with personal experience with this recommendation?
I think any kind of Mexican food will upset your stomach, if you have tacos or something. Things like that, beans or whatever, is probably not the best for your stomach. That or like Thai food, I’m guessing. Anything spicy I don’t think is going to be very good, especially if it’s a hot day. You don’t want that. I’m usually pretty easy; I’m a chicken and rice guy before races.
But yeah, I had a bad experience. I ran a K&N car at Sonoma two or three years ago, and I didn’t think I was going to make it. I really didn’t think I was going to make it. I was really hurting, and we ended up breaking — truthfully breaking! (Laughs) I didn’t wreck on purpose. We broke a gear or something. But I was feeling really bad. I think it was what I ate the night before.
7. Is there life in outer space, and if so, do they race?
I think there is life in outer space. There’s got to be. There’s too much galaxy to not have anything. If there wasn’t anything, that would be more terrifying than if there actually is something.
Do they race? Just depends how advanced they are, I guess. I mean, are we talking about living things as far as parasites on other planets or are we talking about full-grown aliens? I don’t know.
I’m sure they were racing when the cavemen discovered how to make wheels. They were putting them on these little buggies and they were racing their buggies, I swear. I mean, it’s just part of nature. So I’m sure (aliens) race if they have the knowledge of round wheels or hover cars.
That’s what I was wondering. Do you think that some of the stuff we see in Star Wars when they race in their kind of vehicles, do you think that exists somewhere? Can you envision that?
It’s hard for me to envision outer space movies as depictions of outer space. The only reason we think of that stuff is because they’re in movies. If we never would had seen a photo of Area 51 alien, we’d have a completely different idea of what an alien would look like. I’d like for aliens to look like us where they’re just other humans on other planets.
But it’s crazy how you pick up on things that are in movies that you’re like, “This must be right. Somewhere out there, they must do it this way.” They might. Maybe they’ll come say hey one day. That’d be nice.
8. What do drivers talk about when they’re standing around at driver intros before a race?
Oh, now you’re getting into the dirt. Really, it just varies. I mean, it really is just small talk. “How’s it going?” You don’t really talk about much of the race, like the upcoming race. We might talk about practice a little bit, like, “Oh, how are you?” and stuff like that. That or your week or if you have a crazy story from the weekend or something. I’m sure some of us will have some crazy stories about this Friday night after the bash (at Talladega); we’ll have some good stories we can share on Sunday at the intro stage. But not a lot gets talked about.
9. What makes you happy right now?
There’s a couple new things. My nephew (Louie) makes me real happy whenever I get to see him. That’s been a lot of fun to get to watch him grow over the last few months. And my dog (Sturgill), I’ve been able to watch him grow also and at about the same time period. So those two things make me pretty happy.
Honestly the nephew thing is cool because whenever he’s at a race and things like that, you’re like, “Why am I getting upset?” He actually calms me down. It’s just kind of neat, you just kind of think back on it. But yeah, those two things are two pretty recent things that make me really happy.
10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do as long as you’re driving.” Would you accept that offer?
That’s tough. That’s a good question. I’m curious what other people said about it. Like the rest of my career? However long I wanted to go, until I was 50? Full-time, 25 years. Every single interview. (Thinks for a moment)
I feel like after the first few years it would just become normal. The first year would be awkward and people would be like, “What the hell is he doing?” But I think after that it would be like, “Oh, it’s just part of the deal.” And down the road it just gets to be, “That’s just how it is.” So yeah, I would probably take that. Just have to fight through that first year of the public kind of humiliation, but I think after that you’re fine.
11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series. Actually, it’s not really completely random. I only have two questions for you to pick from. Basically it’s going to go odd or even for the question.
We’ll go even.
This question is a question that you’ve answered before, but I want to see how your answers compare because this was five years ago. You get to have a lot of cool experiences away from racing through your job as a NASCAR driver. What is one experience to you that sticks out?
I feel like a really cool experience has been just meeting a lot of people. You meet a lot of great people. I’m a big music fan and I’ve gotten to meet some of my favorite artists. I’ve been able to be on a couple of TV shows. To be a voice in Cars 3 was really cool because I loved that movie as a kid. To be on a couple TV shows has been tons of fun.
I just think the neat opportunities and the people you meet along the way is cool, kind of seeing and talking to them about their background, where they come from, how they end up doing this job, I think it’s kind of neat. And you respect other people, what they do professionally — and they have questions for us, too. I’ve made a lot of friends outside the racing world and like the entertainment business that have never been to a race before and they come out to Fontana or a race in Florida or something and they become fans for life. So I think that’s been a lot of fun to meet some great folks like that.
12. The last interview was with Josef Newgarden. He wants to know: What is your opinion on mullets and mustaches? Do you like them? Do you dislike them? Do you have one personally? And if you don’t, do you want to have one? And also, are you allowed to have one?
I saw this on social media, and when Ian (Moye, Blaney’s public relations representative) said I’m doing 12 questions with you, I’m like, “Oh, awesome. I get to answer this question.”
So Josef, a very clean cut guy. He’s like “Ken Doll,” we call him. And yes, I love mustaches. I like long hair, I like mustaches, that’s kind of how I’ve always been. I don’t know why I enjoy them; I just do.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to grow both pretty well, and that’s kind of my offseason look. I grow my hair out throughout the year, I might get it cut once a year, maybe twice; one and a half, really. And halfway through November I start on my mustache kick, and then I have a pretty solid month of a pretty full thick mustache after that.
Am I allowed to have them? No. That’s just the way it is. (Team Penske has) been very good being lenient towards it; they know I have a big fanbase that kind of likes that stuff. So that’s been nice to not be completely kind of shut off from everything.
But there’s times you have to know when to be presentable and not. The hair thing, Penske’s kind of let go a little bit and loosened reins on it. At the beginning of the year, I got a massive haircut and shaved my face for beginning-of-the-year photos and that kind of stuff, and then it just kind of grows throughout the year. I’ve done a pretty good job keeping my face pretty clean throughout the main part of the year.
But if I could, I would have long hair and a mustache all the time. But hey, you’ve just gotta be responsible and respectful for who you’re driving for and things like that, and that’s fine with me. They know my fans like it, but it’s a big give and take thing, which has been nice to have. Not just completely shut off.
Maybe the more vocal your fans are about how much they like it, the more they’ll let you go with it and keep it potentially?
No. They’ve (already) been pretty vocal about it. But like I said, I know kind of the limits and boundaries and things like that and when you have to be responsible. So it’s a good balance, I feel like throughout the year. Start the year off baby-faced and throughout the year the hair gets a little bit longer and then like the last month of the season I start on the mustache. So it’s kind of a progression.
The next interview is with Tyler Reddick. Do you have a question I can ask him?
We drove trucks together for a little bit (at Brad Keselowski Racing). In 2015 I drove a part schedule in that 29 truck, like five races. Most recent Xfinity championship winner — how did he celebrate? What was his favorite part about winning the championship, and what was the coolest thing he did? What experience did he have after that?
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Ryan Blaney: