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How Ryan Blaney's Sisters Played a Key Part in Developing His NASCAR Passion
No. 12 credits his two siblings with helping him along his journey to the top of stock car racing’s elite.
At speeds that often eclipse a 200-mph threshold in the NASCAR Cup Series, getting into stock car racing is not something one can take lightly. The seasons are long, the races are grueling and the difference between triumphant glory, soul-sucking defeat or perhaps even a trip to the hospital can all come down to a hundredth of a second. That said, despite the danger and the arduous process of advancing into the top flight of stock car racing, the allure of getting behind the wheel can be just too enticing to ignore, especially when racing’s in your blood like third-generation wheelman and 2023 Cup Series winner Ryan Blaney.
“We’re a family of racers,” Blaney said in a recent interview with NASCAR legend Dale Jarrett on NBC Sports. “Growing up wanting to be like my dad [Dave Blaney], growing up at the race track, watching dad race. … Dad was my main influence."
As much of a role model as his father was for a young Blaney, the driver of Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford Mustang revealed that it was also his two sisters, Emma and Erin, who significantly contributed to propelling his NASCAR career with their unwavering support.
"We're a close family you know,” Blaney said. “I feel like that's something very important. My two sisters actually grew up there racing over quarter midgets and got out of it when it was time to move up. We're very close though. My biggest fans are my two sisters even though they live in different states now. I think it was just growing up at the race track and all of us going week in and week out together.”
Blaney pauses in the video segment because Jarrett surprises him by having Erin, Emma and Emma’s baby boy Louie come join him on the set. Through the embraces and laughter, it’s clear to an outsider that Blaney and his siblings share a kindred bond.
“The newest addition. … Your grip gets stronger every time,” jokes Blaney with a smile as Louie tugs mischievously on the champ’s finger.
First to reflect on what it has been like to watch her brother succeed at the highest level of racing, Emma also revealed how meaningful it’s been to watch him grow and mature as an individual.
“It’s crazy!” Emma declared. “You know, him and I, we raced quarter midgets growing up, and it was very obvious who the racer was, and it was not me. But I think what’s more special than watching him be successful at what he does is just the kind of man he’s growing up to be. He’s [Emma’s son Louie] only 4 months old, but watching him [Ryan] become an uncle, it’s just an incredible thing to see.”
Erin, who works with her brother as the executive director of the Ryan Blaney Family Foundation, highlighted the Cup Series driver’s ability to connect with his adoring fans as the element that’s been the most fun for her to watch.
“It’s kinda cool because when he was the youngest, he was the shy one out of all of us,” revealed Erin. “So, to see him grow up and grow into interacting with fans, and how everyone loves him so much, that’s the coolest thing to watch.”
“That’s way more special than anything I feel like he could accomplish racing-wise – the person he’s become is just very special,” Emma chimed in.
Though he may have been introverted when he was younger, Blaney didn’t shy away from acknowledging his sisters and his mother for the time and energy they gave that helped him get to where he is today.
“You look at the whole family, my mother and sisters in particular, the sacrifices they made,” Blaney revealed. “My racing took up a lot of my parents’ time, and Emma and Erin still came to a lot and wanted to be a part of it and still want to be a part of it, which I think is very cool. [I’m] just really lucky to have a supportive family that has really been behind me since day one.”
Blaney’s supportive family just became a little bigger after he proposed last week to his long-time girlfriend, Gianna Tulio, who he had been dating for three years. While the wedding bells are on the horizon, so is the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season which kicks off February 4 in Los Angeles, California with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.