PENSACOLA, Fla. — It has been a good year for 16-year-old Ryan Blaney.
Blaney, son of World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion and NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, picked up victories in both the Pro All Stars Series South and CRA Super Series for late models this season. He finished second in PASS South points and was crowned champion of the CRA Southern Six Pack Series.
But the season isn’t over just yet.
The youngster now has his sights set on the 43rd running of the Snowball Derby, the prestigious late-model race held annually at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. While Blaney did compete in the undercard Snowflake 100 last year in Pensacola, this season will be the first time he attempts to make the Snowbally Derby feature.
“I am really excited about the Snowball Derby,” said Blaney. “We ran the Snowflake 100 last year and had a really good run. I have always wanted to run the Derby, but we just haven’t been ready for it. My Dad and I have talked about it the last few years, so this year we are going to do it.”
While Blaney is used to running 100 and 150-lap events, the Derby is made up of 300 circuits around Five Flags Speedway. That changes things greatly, and will give him plenty of valuable new experiences.
“It’s a longer race and you have live pit stops, so all those things have to be thought about before you can head to Florida,” Blaney said. “I am really looking forward to running against the KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) cars, Ross Kenseth, Chase Elliott, Augie Grill and so on. If you can run well against that crowd then you know you are doing all right. You really find out how good you are and how good your stuff is just by making the race. Most people that you race against down there run a series or a tour which has a few good guys and when you get the best of the best together in one place for this huge event then you have to be at your best or you will go home.
“As a Derby rookie I want to go down there and run well. Ross Kenseth went there last year and put the car on the outside of the front row and turned some heads. Ross is so good at adapting to track and it amazes me how he can change up so quickly. It’s hard to do that and it’s hard to do it at Five Flags,” Blaney said. ”I hope we can do something similar to that. It’s really a matter of watching what other people do. I try to see how others get around the track and what lane they use to be fast in. Jamie (Rouleau), my crew chief, helps me find the line so we can start working on making the car better. I have never raced a Super Late Model at Pensacola so it will be interesting to see how different it is for us. The plan is save your stuff for 200, 250 laps and be there at the end. Staying out of trouble is key and then you can be in the mix for the win.”