Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CHARLOTTE, NC – Ryan Blaney’s mantra is a simple one.
“I would rather make other people happy than myself,” Blaney said on Tuesday at the Charlotte Convention Center during the NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The most striking thing about that comment? Blaney means it.
If he’s asked to do something to raise the visibility of NASCAR racing, Blaney is there. That includes a recent guest appearance on NBC’s “Taken,” voicing the character Ryan “Inside” Laney in the movie “Cars 3” and a cameo role as a pizza delivery boy in the movie “Logan Lucky.”
Not all drivers are as generous with their time, but Blaney is a 24-year-old who can already see the big picture. When he’s sitting idle, he feels guilty about it.
“There are resting days, for sure, but you have to think of the end game,” said Blaney, who recently cut his hair and shaved his face to conform to the clean-cut image at Team Penske, where he’ll drive a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car this year.
“I would rather make other people happy than myself. If I have to sacrifice time, it’s just time. It really doesn’t mean much to me personally. I would rather do something meaningful for the sport than to go sit on my couch. I don’t feel like I am doing anything then and feel I could be more useful somewhere else.”
Even if it’s a task he doesn’t relish or a market he doesn’t think is particularly fertile, Blaney makes himself available, unless an appearance interferes with his driving duties.
“I say no every now and then. The only times I say no, really, is when I have my job to do, if it will interfere with things like that. If it is just me, I try to take personal days, too, but that’s for vacation. Very rarely do I say no to things just to sit on my couch.
“I can do that at night, and I can do that when I retire. I want to do as much as I can right now to make it work and make other people happy and make this thing the best it can.”
Blaney’s generosity with his time has its payoff. When he was filming “Taken,” for instance, he got an inside look at the intricacies of television production.
“Yeah, the Taken thing up in Toronto for NBC was really cool,” Blaney said. “We were there for two days, and we filmed all at night, so we would film from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two days straight. It was maybe 15 degrees in Toronto and snowing, and we were just in a little tent for like 12 hours waiting to film your deal.
“I wasn’t in it very long, but I was out there the whole time. I like doing that stuff. I have always been fascinated and curious of that side – TV and movies. I compare it to NASCAR where, until you see it first-hand, you don’t know how much work goes on behind the scenes and how many people are involved to make one little scene of a movie.
“You don’t realize how many people are involved to put a race car on a track either. I think that’s a cool thing we have in common with that industry. Hopefully, I get more opportunities to do that in my spare time or offseason.”
It’s particularly gratifying when Blaney can see immediate results from his efforts.
“Yeah, when I won the fall XFINITY race at Dover, it was a neat thing,” Blaney said. “NBC makes you get out and talk on the frontstretch, which I think is really cool, talking face to face with fans right after you take the checkered flag, and your emotions are at the highest. I saw a young fan standing by the fence, and I gave him the checkered flag through the fence.
“He and his mother came down to Victory Lane afterward, which was really cool. I feel like those little things you can do to get face to face with fans and make a memory. That’s the biggest thing to me, making a memory for them that lasts a lifetime. I feel like that was a pretty cool moment, and I was fortunate to have that moment with him. Hopefully, there are many more like that.”