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June 22, 2020

Ryan Blaney

Lincoln, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: We have the winner of the race today, Ryan Blaney.
Pretty emotional day, wild race. Take us from start to finish for you, being close friends with Bubba, then winning at Talladega in a thrilling finish.
RYAN BLANEY: Definitely a good ending to the day for sure on our end, being able to inch them out there at the line. But the start of the day, all the drivers on pit road pushing Bubba's car, showing their support, it was just an honor to be a part of that. Not only the drivers, but the crew members and the fans that were in attendance as well, NASCAR. That's something I think everyone will remember for a long time.
It showed how much we support not only Darrell. That was the main reason we were doing it, to support Darrell. But everybody that has been oppressed not only for the past two weeks but for a long time.
What happened yesterday was disgusting. I don't understand how a person or people can have that hatred in their heart for someone who just looks different than they do. Never something I'll understand. It almost brought me to tears when Bubba told me yesterday what happened. He doesn't deserve that. No one deserves that.
But I think the good thing is us as a community came together, showed our support. I know he really appreciated it. It was the least we can do to show we're behind him 100%. I'm obviously going to be behind him 100%. I have been for 15 years, I hope to make it 50 more years supporting him every step along the way. That was definitely a special moment to be a part of before the race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. You've made a tradition of giving a flag away at the end of the races. Since you've had so many races without the fans, was today's maybe a little bit more special to give it to a little kid?
RYAN BLANEY: For sure, definitely. That's been something I've been doing for the past three or four years whenever I win a race. Yeah, it was definitely nice we had people in the stands, they stuck around after it rained. We got really lucky the weather cleared up to run the whole race.
They are excited. Man, it was so great just to have fans back. The atmosphere of them cheering was back. Before and after the race, we love that stuff. Drivers, we love support. We love putting on good shows. Just to see even though it was 5,000 people, it was really cool to just get that cheering again, see everyone having a good time, that they enjoyed the race.
I was lucky the little boy and his father were really close. Figured what a better welcome back present for fans to come to NASCAR races than do that for that kid.

Q. You seemed subdued after your win. What was the main reason for the lack of wild celebration?
RYAN BLANEY: I've never been too wild of a celebration guy. Yeah, it was definitely exciting. I was thinking of what I could have done better. The 20 and I kind of made contact there, kind of banged doors. I didn't really mean to go up there and bang his door. I was trying to get close to him to slow him down. I saw him hit the wall hard. I was a little concerned about that, if he was okay. Definitely wasn't my intention to hit him. I thought we were just going to kind of get close. We kind of met in the middle of the racetrack.
No, there's a lot of stuff going through your head from how the race ended. We were fortunate to be the winner. What happened the last couple days, I was just thinking about that, too. With Bubba coming up beside me after the race, that meant a lot. It showed his support. It was cool to see him after I got done with the start/finish line deal.
Yeah, just a lot going through your head, man. It's a good day. I'm really happy to be able to win the race. Yeah, just thinking about some stuff with Darrell and things like that, how the race ended. Yeah, that was kind of I guess the reason.

Q. You've been on the verge and in position to win many times. To be able to seal the deal on a track that is the hardest to do that on probably?
RYAN BLANEY: You're right. I was talking about that on FOX a little bit ago. The whole year really, but the past month and a half has been really good for us. We've had some really good runs. We've had really fast cars, had a chance to win I feel like every race the last month and a half. It just really hasn't fallen our way. We just haven't been in the right place at the right time or not been quite fast enough.
Coming here, you just don't really know your outcome. You don't really know how things are going to be. You can't work on your car really too much to get better throughout the race. You can change a little bit, get better, but you don't control your destiny a whole lot like other racetracks.
It is a little funny. We've been knocking on the door all year, and it just happened to be here. We kept ourselves in contention all day. Todd did a great job with strategy calls all day. It was really good. We worked with our teammates, me, Brad, Joey and Matt all day. We worked great together. We couldn't find each other at the end. That's usually how that goes.
Nice to finally break through, get the first one of the year. Hopefully this opens the floodgates here and we can get on a roll. This team has been awesome. They've been so much fun to work with all year.

Q. You seemed to have for most of the race the ability to work around each other except at the end getting separated.
RYAN BLANEY: Just stayed disciplined to each other. You can plan and plan all you want, but sometimes things just don't work out. For a lot of the race today we had all four cars, three of our cars and the 21, right together. I thought we were strong pulling the bottom line. The top could kind of run up towards us. We would start pushing again really hard, be able to surge back out in front.
I think we do that really well with the Penske cars, DiBenedetto, really disciplined with each other. The reason we broke up at the end, everybody had different pit strategies, could just never really find each other. I think we're really good at just having each other's backs. That's something we definitely take a lot of pride in. It seems to work out at a lot of these places, so...

Q. Could you explain your relationship with Bubba. What does the friendship go back to?
RYAN BLANEY: We started racing together in this thing called Bandoleros around the Charlotte area, Concord, Nashville area. We were both the same age. When you're a young kid, 10 years old, there's a kid your age you're racing against, you get along well, they naturally become your friend. A fun journey racing together throughout the years.
We didn't race against each other kind of in our late teens or early teens because we went a different route of late model racing. Then we got back together at K&N and Xfinity and Truck. It's so cool. I look back where he and I started, now we're both at the Cup level, driving for great owners, get to compete against each other every single week like we used to when we were kids. That's really hard to do. The odds of that happening are very low that both of us were able to make it to the Sunday level.
It's just somebody I've gotten along with. He and I would be great friends even if we weren't racing together. We have a lot in common, get along really well. Someone you can talk to, a good friend you've known for a long time that will always have your back, whether it's me having his back or him having mine. Someone I've known for a long time and really fortunate to get to know over the years, race against.
Like I said, I support him 100%. I'm always going to be behind him. If you run afoul to Bubba, you run afoul to me. Just a great person and a great family he comes from that makes him who he is today.

Q. NASCAR found itself at a crossroads this weekend. How do you want this weekend to be remembered for the sport?
RYAN BLANEY: I want the weekend to be remembered by, I don't know, I guess a good word would be 'unity', everyone coming together and showing support. I hate focusing on the bad things because that's what gets a rise out of people. But I feel like what everyone has said the last day has really shown that it's not going to be tolerable any more. We're all going to stand behind the people who are mistreated. That just shows what a family we are.
We're competitors all on the racetrack, but at the end of the day we're one big traveling family. We're going to support anybody who we compete with. If they get threatened in a way, we're going to have their back.
I just want everyone to know we're all in this together and we support everybody. I thought it was a really great thing we did that happened at the beginning of the race. I hope people remember that. It shows we're all one big family and we're going to support each other no matter what.

Q. Everyone will remember today probably forever. What did it mean to be a part of it? You had a different view of it. Anything you remember specifically, one thing or person that you'll take away?
RYAN BLANEY: I mean, I just think looking around, whether it was walking up to the front of the grid, standing there, everyone who was in support of it. Like I said, it wasn't only drivers, it was crew members, fans, NASCAR, everybody. So that moment just shows how much everybody supports each other.
You may not like each other all the time. May tick each other off on the racetrack from time to time. At the end of the day we're going to support each other.
What really got me was we got Bubba's car to the front there, he had to take a little bit to pause and compose himself because it was a very emotional moment for him. I think it was emotional for him because everyone was supporting him. It's just something different that I couldn't personally be a part of because I've never been in Bubba's position, but I'm going to support him the best I can.
Just the emotion he showed, he was really thankful to see everyone's support. That got me a little bit. Then just everyone going up to him after the anthem or before the anthem was special. I just think the whole day, it's hard to pick out one certain moment. I think everybody coming together was very special.

Q. The last three superspeedway races, you've been involved in finishes for the win. What have you been able to take away from the last two that you were able to apply tonight?
RYAN BLANEY: You're always learning, right? This package was a little bit different than the one we had in Daytona, or last year even. Especially at these places, a big notebook. You're constantly remembering things, I should have done this here, this here. This worked pretty decent. You're always kind of remembering that.
Like I said, everything happens so fast, you have to make a decision in a split second. If you wait a split second too long, it's too late. Just have to kind of go with your gut. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.
I've been on the wrong end of it where it doesn't work out. Exactly like Daytona, it was the wrong move I made that put us in a particularly weird spot. That happened. So you learn from those things, learn to maybe not put yourself in those positions again.
It's easy to plan those things out and think of them ahead of times, but it's sometimes hard to react to them. Our speedway program is fast. We have fast cars. Just good to be with good teammates that will help you go.
A lot of it's just what line goes, what line moves. If you have a fast enough car, you can kind of make a line move. That was something we had today.
Yeah, just experience. Honestly some of it is just things working out for you. Three races before, the three speedway races before we won Talladega last year, we got involved in someone's mess. That's just part of it. It's just part experience, learning, understanding, then right breaks, getting a little bit of luck at the end to make it to the end of these things.

Q. How would you describe yours and Bubba's emotions last night? Was it more sadness? Disbelief? Anger?
RYAN BLANEY: Me personally, when I heard of it, Darrell told me, we were sitting in my bus when he told me after he talked to NASCAR. He was obviously really emotional and hurt, really hurt by it. I just didn't know what to say. I couldn't find the words to describe how I felt. I felt a mixture of anger and sadness for him, confused how anybody could do something like this. I just felt all these different emotions. I know he went through a big range.
You hate to see your buddies or anybody you love be sad and be hurting. I tried to support him the best I could. Gave him a big hug before he left. I think it was just a multiple range of emotions. Last night I was really angry. I couldn't fall asleep. It's just something that's difficult to try to describe, but there were a lot of emotions that went into it and multiple stages of the night.

Q. At the start of the day there was talk about this is one of the worst days in NASCAR history, now the feeling you have about the sense there's been a shift to some sort of pride and hope?
RYAN BLANEY: I think that's how you got to handle these situations, right? You can't let some idiot trying to threaten somebody, you can't let that affect you. I think it shows how strong Bubba is to be able to when you're hurting, saddened by it, I'm sure he's still hurt by it, but to come together and be strong. That's how you got to deal with that stuff. If you let it really eat away at you, that person wins, those people win.
I think it's great that everyone rose up, Bubba included, and really came together. I don't want it to be remembered as a terrible day or a bad day in NASCAR. I want it to be remembered as there was an incident and we all overcame it together, showed that we were not going to take it any more, man. I'm getting sick of this shit. It's not something that he should deal with. That's all I got to say about that.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, well said. Thank you for your time. Congratulations on the win. We'll see you at the doubleheader in Pocono.
RYAN BLANEY: Thank you, guys.

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