In random moments, Dave Blaney has pondered “what if” he stayed in Sprint Cars and didn’t go to NASCAR. How many more races, big races, championships could he have won?
But there are also moments, like watching his son Ryan Blaney win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship this year, where he couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
“It’s a cool thing,” Dave Blaney said about seeing Ryan win the title. “I don’t even have words for it. Happy for his accomplishment. That’s a huge thing to accomplish. It’s going to be with him forever. And the cool thing is he’s the Cup champion for the year.”
Ryan’s title continues a legacy of success for the Blaney family: His grandfather, Lou Blaney, is in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame. His uncle, Dale Blaney is an All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car champion. And his father is the 1995 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion and a 95-time World of Outlaws winner – ranking eighth on the Series’ all-time wins list.
“It’s fantastic,” Ryan said about continuing the family legacy during his championship press conference. “I mean, just coming from a racing family in general, right? Grandfather, Lou, winning a bunch of championships in the Northeast. Dad being the Outlaw champion. Dale winning the All Star championship. Now, for me, to kind of add some asphalt into there is pretty good because that’s what I grew up doing.
“I couldn’t think of a better spot of my family being there and them being able to witness it. They are just as much a part of it as I am. Not only my dad, my mom sacrificed more than you could imagine to make sure I could get to every race and do what I needed to do to get going. I have two awesome sisters that support me. It’s pretty special to have them here.”
Dave never put the expectation of being a champion on Ryan, but he always expected he could get to that point. And to his pleasant surprise, it happened sooner than he envisioned.
“You see it a lot, guys come in with a huge amount of talent, but it takes a while for those guys to learn how to win those races and learn how to be there every week,” Dave said. “It’s a funny thing to watch, but it seems that guys that win titles are all about the same age, in their early 30s when they get it. It’s a weird thing to see [Ryan, now 29 years old] mature and get to that point.”
For Ryan, his dad is someone he’s always looked up. Always wanted to model himself after. So, to have the Outlaw champion, and NASCAR veteran, with him through the entire journey, severing as his personal cheerleader (as Dave described himself), has been immeasurable.
“He’s been awesome, right?” Ryan said. “He’s been not only someone I grew up wanting to be like and wanting to do his sport, obviously getting me started in racing, supported me along the way, opened a lot of doors for me.
“For him to still be supportive when I’m an adult is great. His whole thing through the Playoffs was, ‘I see the path, I can see the path to the championship, I can see it.’ After we won Martinsville, he’s like, ‘It’s lit up now, the path is lit up.’ I think we drove through the gate…”
In what may have been a foreshadowing moment, Ryan got to honor his father’s World of Outlaws championship and Sprint Car legacy this year by running a throwback paint scheme which resembled Dave’s famed yellow and blue #10 Casey Luna Sprint Car at Darlington Raceway.
Dave considers his “real Sprint Car career” to be from 1982 to 1997, with his time as a World of Outlaws driver spanning from 1985 to 1997. After a Series title, more than 90 wins, a Knoxville Nationals win in 1997 and two Kings Royal titles (1993 and 1995) he made the move to NASCAR in 1998. In the Stock Car ranks, Dave made 473 starts in the Cup Series from 1992 to 2014 with a career-best points finish of 19th. He also made more than a 100 starts in the NASCAR Busch Series (now the NASCAR Xfinity Series) and scored a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2006.
Looking back on those years brings up mixed feeling for Dave and occasional “what if” thoughts. But when he looks at Ryan’s career, it doesn’t take long for him to feel good about it, knowing it played a small part in helping lead his son to where he is today.
“In some ways I look back and think, well if I didn’t go to NASCAR, I could have had, man, at least 10 more years, how much more races could I have won and big races and all of that stuff,” Dave said. “The other side of me says, ‘Well, the NASCAR side of it was pretty cool.’ I didn’t have a ton of success, but it was a great experience and I got to know some people that helped Ryan get off the ground.
“It’s always different when something happens to you or happens to your children. It’s way cooler when you see your children do it.”
Dave’s Sprint Car career isn’t over yet either. He still runs a handful of races each year, including some with the World of Outlaws. He picked up his 95th win with the Series at Sharon Speedway (the track he owns) in 2021.
He’ll be back behind the wheel of his #10 Sprint Car for the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 17 – a race that honors his father and will celebrate Ryan’s championship. The event’s 410 Sprint Car race will pay $12,000 to win and $1,200 to start (as Ryan drives the #12 Cup car for Team Penske). Ryan will also attend the event, which will be streamed live on DIRTVision.
“There’s a lot of fans and family up there that don’t get to see him much, so that will be cool,” Dave said. “For us these days, it’s our biggest race of the year, dad’s memorial.”