The NASCAR of today is a lot more different than the NASCAR of 10 and 20 years ago. Ryan Blaney is a great example of that change. The driver comes from a racing family, but he is young, has tattoos, and is more than a “redneck” driving in circles.
The newer generations of NASCAR drivers are more diverse, both in their racing backgrounds, where they grew up, and more. There are more women like Toni Breidinger getting a shot at a NASCAR career, and drivers getting into the sport who don’t come from racing families.
Talking on The Money Lap podcast with Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill, Ryan Blaney talked about the perception drivers get from the public. He also believes that the stigma is changing as new fans get introduced to the sport with things like the new Netflix series.
“I think it [the perception] is turning in a positive way, you know,” Blaney said. “NASCAR gets this, or it did for a long time, it gets this label on it’s like, ‘Oh you’re just country, southern boys running around in circles,’ you know? That’s just the stigma it had for a long time. It’s things like the Netflix deal and all this access, it’s showing that we’re not all just like, dumb rednecks.
“There’s personality behind it, there’s a lot that goes into these things and to make cars go around the race track it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into it. I feel like once you show that, people appreciate it, they just get a new perspective on things, which is good.”
Is Ryan Blaney right? Are fans and even non-fans viewing NASCAR in a new light?
Ryan Blaney represents a new generation
NASCAR drivers should be taken seriously. They are true athletes, the best of the best are in the gym and working out all of the time. Many of them do more media and sponsorship events than most other pro athletes. It is a demanding job.
So, why isn’t it viewed that way? For the most part, people dismiss stock car racing for driving in circles. It takes time to understand the nuance of racing on ovals. Let’s not forget Shane van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion, will have his biggest test in NASCAR on ovals.
When these drivers get into a car, they are risking everything. Ryan Blaney and the drivers involved in the Netflix show did a great job of showing that for viewers. The danger, excitement, and intensity of the sport are what make it great.
While there is nothing wrong with country boys from the South going in circles, in fact, it’s great, NASCAR is more than that. To survive in the modern world, the sport cannot be contained regionally. It must branch out. With drivers like Ryan Blaney, it is doing just that.