Ryan Blaney debuts 7th in Nationwide competition
By John Bassetti
With graduation approaching, many families will gather for the occasion in a month or so.
That’ll be the case for high school senior Ryan Blaney’s family, but, this weekend, they got together in Richmond, Va., for the same purpose, in a different sense.
The NASCAR Nationwide Richmond 250 Friday night at Richmond Speedway represented an elevation for 18-year-old Ryan Blaney, who took the next step in his race-car career.
He qualified eighth in his No. 36 Chevrolet with an average lap speed of 123.012, then finished seventh. Kasey Kahne was 10th and Kurt Busch was the winner.
The son of NASCAR Sprint Car driver Dave Blaney was groomed for the debut, which was the first of six Nationwide series races in which he’s scheduled to enter.
It’s a big weekend for the Blaney family, which included father, mother, sisters and grandmother — Kate Blaney of Hartford — in attendance.
“This is huge,” said Lisa Blaney, Ryan’s mother. “This was his first big-time race,” she said of her son, who turned 18 on Dec. 31.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” said Lisa Blaney, who has become accustomed to dealing with her husband’s weekly racing.
Still, she had to convince herself that Ryan’s attempt to move up a level was just part of the rite of passage among the males around her.
“I kept trying to say, ‘This is what we do, it’s OK, this is what we do.’ But it’s a little different when it’s your son and it’s his first big-time race.”
All of the practice and qualifying took place Friday before the race at Richmond Speedway, where Dave Blaney is also racing in tonight’s Richmond 400.
Ryan came up through the ranks, starting in go-karts.
He was runner-up in the K&N Pro Series at Bristol in March and 18th at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway on April 7 in late models. On April 21, he was fourth in the PASS South Orange Blossom at Orange County (N.C.) for late models.
He couldn’t race any Nationwide series events until after turning 18 on Dec. 31.
His next Nationwide race is May 11 at Darlington. Friday’s race included Sprint Cup regulars and Danica Patrick.
Although the Nationwide field size wasn’t anything Ryan Blaney hadn’t experienced before, the Richmond 250 competition was much stiffer and the distance was daunting.
“It was definitely the longest race he’s ever done and he raced against a bunch of the Cup guys, too,” Lisa Blaney said. “Hopefully, it was a good learning experience for him.”
Ryan’s week started Thursday when he had an issue with his car and ended up 22nd in the Blue Ox 100 Richmond. Hubbard’s Jimmy Weller, in an Integrated Metal Products Toyota, finished 12th.
If he wasn’t the youngest in Friday night’s 250, Ryan was one of the youngest, for sure.