The Untold Truth About Race Car Driver Ryan Blaney

Stock car driver Ryan Blaney has been racing since he was only 9 years old, but he has only just recently come into his own. Per the Team Penske website, Ryan Blaney was born in the `90s, but in 2021, he had his best season ever, finishing first in a number of matches and punctuating his season with two wins in a row (via Sportscasting). At the time of this writing, Blaney takes those high expectations to the Daytona 500, "The Great American Race," which he has yet to win.

With a long family history in the sport of car racing and some unusual hobbies when he's not on the track, Blaney is a compelling and seemingly fearless race car driver to watch, no matter which race he's competing in. When it's all said and done, what's for certain is that the Blaney name — which has been an important part of car racing history — seems likely to be a big part of NASCAR for many more seasons to come.

He's a third-generation race car driver

It could be said that Ryan Blaney has race-car driving in his blood. He grew up watching his dad, Dave Blaney, race sprint cars and NASCAR, as NBC Sports reports. That's while Blaney's granddad also raced sprint cars and even co-owned his own speedway in Ohio. Learning under his dad no doubt provided the younger Blaney a competitive advantage. 

"Ryan grew up learning the basics and fundamentals at a young age, and that gave him a head start. Me having a background in racing just helped speed up his learning curve is all that happened," Dave Blaney, a successful racer in his own right, told NBC Sports. The elder Blaney learned everything he knows from his own father, and he's happy to pass along that knowledge to the next generation. "It's very cool, actually, that he'll still ask my opinion," he said. "I'm going to tell him and give him the right information, and he can take it from there."

The Force is with him

With a family tradition in race car driving, one might also imagine that those thrilling scenes of X-Wing and TIE-Fighter dogfights in "Star Wars" movies got Ryan Blaney even more interested in speed than he already was. Supporting this theory is the fact that Ryan Blaney is a massive fan of the "Star Wars" franchise, and he even has a tattoo to prove it, as the racer told The Athletic in 2021. The "Star Wars" ink Blaney sports covers almost his entire thigh, and it's a medley of Vader battling Obi-Wan and the Death Star, as USA Today reports.

Blaney even dressed up as Leia from the "Return of The Jedi" Jabba the Hutt sequence for Halloween, which can be seen on the NASCARCASM Twitter feed. When Blaney finished the 2021 season in Daytona, Florida, he was sure to visit "Galaxy's Edge," a Star Wars-centric exhibit at Disney World in the state. When asked which "Star Wars" film stands best on its own, Blaney told USA Today that it's "The Empire Strikes Back." He also admits that he has a crush on Rey from the J.J. Abrams "Star Wars" trilogy.

He's afraid of ghosts

In addition to being a massive "Star Wars" fan, Ryan Blaney has quite the collection of weapons, which includes guns, swords, and spears. "I keep every gun that I own, under my bed or in my nightstand," he said (via Racing News). What motivates Blaney to keep such an arsenal so close at hand? Intruders, both corporeal and ghostly spirits from beyond.

"I'm not really more scared of like a burglar or an intruder, more just a weird paranormal," he told Racing News before admitting you can't shoot a ghost. Nevertheless, some of the many weapons he keeps nearby at all times include a spear and a roughly 300-year-old sword. There is, of course, also a replica lightsaber from "Star Wars" in the mix. "I stash weapons in my couches and around my house," he said in the same interview. "Yeah, it's crazy. If anyone breaks in, I have a spear."

He has an unusual driving style

To be successful in NASCAR racing takes a certain kind of fearlessness, and Blaney has shown that he has what it takes on several occasions while racing. In Blaney's late-season appearance at Daytona Speedway — which he won while racing a different competition from the Daytona 500 — there was a terrible crash near the end. How did Blaney manage to avoid it? He closed his eyes and just kept going (via Sportscasting).

In the midst of the terrible accident near the end of the race Blaney won, two cars bounced off the outside wall, with one landing directly in front of Blaney. In response, Blaney shut his eyes and kept driving. According to NASCAR "Race Hub" podcast host Shannon Spake, that approach is more common than one might expect. "You see, every time I ask if a driver closes his eyes when he's trying to go through one of those wrecks," Spake said (per Sportscasting). "I get weird looks." But since Blaney admitted it, Spake's suspicions were confirmed.

His car burst into flames

Closing his eyes in the midst of a terrible car crash notwithstanding, Ryan Blaney's most hair-raising incident on the race track may have, in fact, occurred in 2018, according to USA Today. That's when Blaney's car burst into flames in the middle of the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway with Blaney still inside it. With more than 20 laps to go in the final stage of the race, Blaney narrowly escaped before his car fully exploded.

Remembering the terrifying event, Blaney said (per USA Today): "You just try to get it stopped. You can't see nothing. But you try to get it stopped as quick as you can and get out of the thing. They're like, 'Did you pull the pin?'" This is referring to the stock car mechanism designed to extinguish the flames. "I'm like, 'Dude, I was trying to get out of it,'" he continued. "I don't look for the pin, I couldn't see it regardless. I smelled like smoke for the next two days though."