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Who Does Ryan Blaney See as His Chief NASCAR Rival?
Neither Kyle Larson nor Ross Chastain, according to the Ford wheelman, stack up to his surprising choice.
We’ve all heard the timeless adage,“keep your friends close and your enemies closer” — but what do you do when they’re one in the same? That’s one conundrum that newly crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney knows a thing or two about.
Blaney sat down with Will Compton and Taylor Lewan on the Barstool Sports podcast Bussin’ With The Boys recently, where he unveiled who among NASCAR’s top flight keeps him up at night — and the answer might surprise you.
“I’ve been lucky, I haven’t had anyone like I really despise,” said the Team Penske Ford driver on the podcast episode. “Like, you’ll have kind of run-ins with some guys every now and then. Some guys kind of... They will hate each other for years and years. I haven’t really been that way."
Which NASCAR drivers does Byan Blaney feel a rivalry with?
"I’d say more of my rivalry is like my buddies, who I grew up racing with,” Blaney continued. “Like, we’re all good friends, you know, Chase Elliott and I, Bubba Wallace and I. We grew up together... We started racing together when we were like 9-10 years old... I feel like, like that’s my rivalry is my buddies."
While Elliott, a six-time Most Popular driver in NASCAR, doesn’t exactly come off as a diabolical menace, the 2020 Cup Series champion is, alas, who Blaney considers to be his biggest threat on the track, along with 23XI Racing’s Wallace.
The Hendrick Motorsports wheelman of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro failed to make the playoffs for the first time in his career and finished in 17th place, but that’s largely because his injuries from his snowboarding accident hijacked his season. Ellott's recovery sidelined him for six races while a suspension for retaliating against Denny Hamlin during the Coca-Cola 600 cost him another race. Meanwhile, Wallace claimed the 10th spot.
As Blaney says, his rivalry with Elliott — who he once contemplated staging a fist fight with — and Wallace has less to do with their family backgrounds and more to do with how early they began competing against one another.
“Bill Elliott drove, Chase’s dad,” noted Blaney. “Bubba doesn’t come from a racing family. His parents never raced. He just started when he was young. He and I actually started when we were like 10 years old. I remember us growing up together.”
When it comes to his rivalry with Elliott and Wallace, part of the fun is derived from the good, old-fashioned ribbing the long-time friends dish out after one of them wins a race.
“You brag a little bit, but it’s not too bad,” joked Blaney. “We all support each other, but you want to beat those guys more than anyone else, your buddies.”
Blaney also revealed the one unwritten rule that annoys him the most about NASCAR.
What annoys Ryan Blaney the most about NASCAR racing?
“On the track, I feel like between drivers, it’s like cheap shots, right?” Blaney offered. “Running into someone, dooring them on purpose for no reason. I’m sure it’s the same way as getting a leg block [in the NFL], or something from behind ... tripping ... going low and hurting somebody, taking a chance to hurt someone. I think it’s kinda the same way in our world."
“As athletes in our world, you know what’s f---ed up, and what’s not,” added Blaney. “I think it’s the same in every sport. And on the track, if someone runs into you for no reason, you’re like, ‘Well, what the f---?’”
That said, Blaney, who infamously flipped off Ross Chastain during the Cup Series finale in Phoenix, Arizona, will be the first to admit that he’s not immune to committing the same cardinal sin that gets under his own skin.
“Oh yeah, you’ll do it, everyone does it,” Blaney admitted. “Everyone does it. Everyone has those things that are messed up, but they do it anyway.”
While the NASCAR Cup Series has a long, storied history of producing compelling rivalries throughout it’s 75-year existence, when it comes to his own regrets on the track, it’s not Blaney's actions that he feels needs improving.
“I would say I’ve said things I wish I didn’t say, I don’t think, not that I can think of right now, done an action that I shouldn’t have done that,” he explained. “I feel like it’s more things you say. ... Words I feel like you can regret pretty easily."