By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – This weekend marks the first All-Star race weekend for Ryan Blaney, and the first appearance for Wood Brothers Racing in the All-Star race weekend line-up since Bill Elliott piloted the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion in the Sprint Showdown in 2010. Elliott started seventh in the Sprint Showdown and finished 12th without transferring to the main event that year. Blaney also has to compete in the Sprint Showdown, be one of the three segment winners that will transfer to the All-Star race itself, or be voted into the All-Star race via the Fan Vote.
Blaney said this to the media as he talked about his excitement for the Sprint All-Star race, “I’m excited. The All-Star Race has always been cool to me. I come here every year. Even if my dad wasn’t running it, he’d always run the Showdown and it was just a cool event to come and watch, and a cool race under the lights here. As a kid I always wanted to be a part of it, so it’s something neat that we’re gonna attempt to do. Hopefully, we can get in whether it’s the segments or the fan votes, so that’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s gonna be just a fun race. I’ve never been part of a race like this, having no points and no holding back, just going for a big prize. It’s gonna be a lot of fun to race in and then race the other drivers in it as well.”
Blaney also talked about the strategy that is required for the All-Star race, “We haven’t talked too much strategy for the All-Star Race yet. We’ve been mainly focused on doing the best we can in the Showdown to try to race our way in. We have figured some strategies that I’m sure some teams have, but whether it’s going out and trying to lead every segment and having to start 10th or 11th in the last little segment, or maybe someone else has a different strategy in being able to start on the front row for that last one, so it kind of depends. But, really, we’ve just been focused on trying to make it in there and then we can work that stuff out.”
The payout for the Sprint All-Star race is one million dollars. When asked about what he would do if he won the million dollars Blaney stated, “It hasn’t really crossed my mind, to be honest with you. I can figure that out if we would do it. I don’t really know. Maybe put some money back in my dad’s race shop or something, fund his racing team for a little bit. That would be kind of neat.”
Blaney also talked about his father’s Eldora car and whether he would rebuild it, “That thing is in the trash. He junked it, but that or I think it would be really cool maybe going to find one of my grandfather’s old cars. I think that would be really neat to go find it and restore it, so that would probably be a start.”
In order to transfer into the All-Star race, one must win a race in the previous season, be a former winner of the All-Star race, be a past Champion of the series, win one of the three segments of the Sprint Showdown, or win the Sprint Fan Vote. Blaney spoke about whether he, like other drivers, had been campaigning for votes, “Not really. Honestly, it’s been pretty great. I get a notification every time someone votes for me on Twitter, and, honestly, I’m getting annoyed by it, which is a good thing. That means people are voting, which is good. I’m sick of getting on Twitter and it’s ‘so and so has voted for you.’ I hate seeing these, but it’s cool that people are voting. It’s shocked me, to be honest with you, to see how much people have been doing it and it’s going to be interesting to see how high up we are. We plan on winning one of the segments. We don’t really want to fall back on the fan vote. I want to go out and win a segment, but it’s been really neat, but I haven’t done anything campaigning-wise.”
Image: Sean Gardner/Getty Images