Blaney’s family ties

HARTFORD – Ryan Blaney didn’t get much of an opportunity to watch his grandfather, Lou, in the sprint-car and modified races during Lou’s 56-year career racing dirt tracks in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia – amongst other places.

Lou struggled with Alzheimer’s late in his life and quit racing in 2004 when Ryan was 10 years old, but it doesn’t mean the 20-year-old NASCAR Truck and Nationwide driver can deny the pressure of having the Blaney last name in the racing world, especially at the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway on Wednesday evening.

Ryan couldn’t help but marvel at the more than 600 career victories his grandfather collected.

“I know I’m not going to win 600 races – that’s ridiculous,” Ryan said. “It just shows how many times he raced and how competitive he was every year. It definitely puts a lot of pressure on me to know he’s so well known here. And I put pressure on myself to do well on the NASCAR side so I can come here and kind of feel a little bit important to bring Blaney heritage back here.

“So, it’s definitely a little bit of pressure to be good and to live up to expectations like he did.”

Well, so far this season, the youngest Blaney is doing just that, currently leading the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by four points over Matt Crafton through 10 races. Ryan holds this lead not because of the races won (he hasn’t won one yet this year), but because of his consistency, as he has eight top-10 finishes and six top-five finishes.

With 11 races to go, Ryan said he believes he could take the series title.

“I hope that we can win that truck championship,” Blaney said. “That would be great to do for Brad Keselowski and his team, and it would mean so much for us and the people at Ford to have a truck back in the championship. That’s what we’re gunning for, and I think we’re close to being where we want to be at as far as an organization.”

On top of his success in the truck series, Blaney also has had a solid year on the Nationwide series as a part-time driver, participating in seven events and collecting four top-five finishes.

While he isn’t in the race for the Nationwide title, Blaney expects to play a role in the owner’s title race. As a member of the Penske Racing Team that was crowned champion last season, Blaney and Co. sit in second place, trailing Joe Gibbs Racing by four points.

“On the Nationwide side with Penske, we have a great chance to win that ownership championship again,” Ryan said. “That would definitely make it a special year.”

All of Ryan’s success in 2014 doesn’t come as a surprise to his father, Dave, who taught Ryan about racing the way he learned from his father, Lou.

“He was into it at a young age, and he continues to want to learn and want to get better,” Dave said of his son. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and it’s paying off. It’s fun when they follow what you do, but he’s into what he does. And that’s what I like the most.”

Going back to his grandfather, Ryan has found success on a different surface – asphalt. Whether or not Lou could have been as successful on asphalt would be difficult to know, as Ryan pointed out the difficulties many drivers have had making the switch to paved roads, but he said he has a feeling Lou could have hacked it.

“I’m sure he would have been able to adapt to it – just a matter of time,” Ryan said. “It’s just a shame we’ll never know that.”

If Ryan’s success means anything, we just might.