Amid Stewart’s return, Blaney relishes chance to race against ‘idol’

By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief

Ryan Blaney is off to a solid rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, already scoring two top-10’s in the opening eight races. However, there is one thing missing for the 22-year-old this season and that has been the chance to race against Tony Stewart.

Although Blaney competed against Stewart for several races prior to his official rookie year in 2016, there has been no opportunity this year due to Stewart’s injury that was sustained prior to the start of the season.

That all changes on Sunday at Richmond International Raceway as the three-time Sprint Cup champion is set to return behind the wheel of his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

With 2016 being Stewart’s final season in the Sprint Cup Series, his return at Richmond is all the more important for Blaney, who admitted on Friday morning that it means a lot to race against someone that holds in such high regard.

“Well, I grew up kind of idolizing him and really looking up to him as a driver and he has always been really great to myself and my family,” Blaney said of Stewart. “One, my dad owns a dirt track up in Ohio and he has always come and done appearances and races out there which has brought a lot of fans.

“He has given us a lot of advice at the start of my career which helped out. He has been a great part of our family and I have always wanted to race with him. I didn’t do that a ton last year because we were racing part time and then he had his injuries.

“It is great to have him back. It is good for the sport to have him back and he is just a good race car driver and I am looking forward to finishing out the year with him.”

Image: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

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Joey Barnes is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Motorsports Tribune. He has covered auto racing since 2013 that has spanned from Formula 1 to NASCAR, with coverage on IndyCar. Additionally, his work has appeared on Racer, IndyCar.com and Autoweek magazine. In 2017, he was recognized with an award in Spot News Writing by the National Motorsports Press Association.

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