NASCAR Q&A: Ryan Blaney talks Talladega success, acting and his favorite snack

Sep. 27—Ryan Blaney knows how to win in the Cup Series. He's done it seven times, after all, including twice at Talladega.

He's had a hard time getting victories this year. Even though he has nine top-five finishes, he hasn't reached Victory Lane since last year. As NASCAR's Cup Series moves into the second race of the three-race Round of 12, a win sure would be nice.

Still, after Sunday's fourth-place finish at Fort Worth, he's fifth in the Cup Series rankings. With another good finish this weekend at the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and at Charlotte's Roval 400 on Oct. 9, he could be in good shape to advance strictly on points. After all, he was the only one of the original 16 playoff drivers to make NASCAR's postseason only on points.

Talladega usually has been good to Blaney. In addition to wins in 2019 and 2020, he has a fourth-place finish in 2015. He was ninth in the spring 2021 race, 15th in the fall of 2021, and 11th this past spring.

Away from racing, he has built a small acting resume. He started with a small voice-acting gig in "Cars 3" as "Ryan 'Inside' Laney" and includes a delivery man in "Logan Lucky," Special Agent Wood in the TV series "Taken," the character Overdrive in an episode of the animated show "Spider-Man," Shane Powell in "Magnum P.I.," and two episodes of "The Crew" as — who else? — Ryan Blaney.

Blaney took time recently to answer a slate of questions about his success at Talladega, his acting roles and, of course, his favorite snack.

Question: You've had success at Talladega before, including two wins, but it can be such an unpredictable track. Is it possible to have a dependable strategy for success at Talladega?

Answer: One of the biggest things you can do is prepare as much as you can before the race. You've got to find your teammates and your drafting partners and then have a rough idea of the different scenarios. But, I don't think you can rely too much on your plan. You have to be able to improvise and be able to change things up depending on what happens throughout the race. If the cautions fall or if you get shuffled back, you've got to switch up your strategy.

So, we've always gone in with a plan and been open minded that that plan will normally change. That's the way that racetrack is. I think that's suited us pretty well in the past.

Q: You won here in 2019 and 2020. You guys run a lot of races every year and some of them run together, but do you have any memories of those two wins that stick out to you?

A: Oh, definitely. Those are two really exciting finishes. Winning them both by, what was it, .007 of a second. I remember the leadup to them. We were in different positions in both of them. For the '19 win, it was in the playoffs, and we re-started in the lead. Lost the lead and then had to get it back.

For the 2020 one, I was kind of leading the whole way to the checkered, and I had to defend. So, it was kind of two different scenarios there, with one on the offense and the second one on the defensive there. So, different ways to get it done, that's for sure. Very exciting races, especially that one in 2019. Anytime you can win the playoffs, that's a huge race for us.

Q: You were the only driver to make the playoffs this year by points, rather than a win. We're accustomed to seeing you in Victory Lane. You've got plenty of good finishes this year, but is it just unfortunate luck that none is a victory?

A: It's just been kind of hard to put everything together, it seems. Earlier in the year, we had really good speed to win, but we couldn't put it together on pit road, and we would have issues. Throughout the year, when we got our pit road issues solved, we lacked a little bit of speed in the summer months. So, it's unfortunate that we couldn't get anything together in the regular season, but we were really consistent, running up there in points, and that's what got us into the playoffs without a win.

The wins just didn't come in the regular season. Hopefully, put everything together what we learned throughout the year and apply them in the playoffs and get to Victory Lane. Obviously, this is the most important time to win.

Q: Russell Branham, who is a director of communications for NASCAR, describes you as a friend of the track at Talladega. Russell doesn't call everyone that. He says you're great with the fans at the track. Could you describe why you seem to enjoy the folks who come to this particular race weekend?

A: Russell has been great to me over the years. I know he's a great guy. It's been to do a couple of things with him at the track, some really cool things, like the Big One on the Boulevard or things like that. I enjoy the people out there. As a driver, you enjoy people being there. They have a good time, and Talladega brings that excitement. It's something I like to kind of build up and create the fan experience.

It's nice of him to say that stuff. I just love seeing fans have fun, and Talladega does a great job of giving fans that experience. You not only go to a race at Talladega, but you also go for a good experience and to have a great time every single day and every single night, even when cars aren't on track. It's been a pleasure to work with them to achieve that goal. You can see for yourself that fans have a blast at that racetrack. It's just cool to be part of that.

Q: Off the track, you've racked up an impressive list of acting credits, including "The Crew," "Magnum P.I." and "Taken." How did that get started, and is it as fun as it seems like it must be?

A: That isn't something I necessarily set out to prioritize years ago. Those kinds of opportunities came about slowly through some relationships that I had, through NASCAR. I was able to get on as a little voice on "Cars 3" or little TV shows or Netflix Series. It's been some cool opportunities. In our line of work, you're going to meet a lot of really neat people, and that gives you chances to do some fun things.

Once I did one of them and I enjoyed it, the offers came in to do some more. And I was like, "Yeah, I don't mind doing these small things at all, if they don't interfere with my day job." I love to do that stuff and mess around and see other worlds. I kind of enjoy that stuff — the ins and outs of the entertainment business on that side, whether it's movies or TV. It's pretty neat to see — the behind-the-scenes stuff and what all goes into it.

You never know. I might do some more of that stuff, if the right one comes up. It would be cool.

Q: Last question: what's your favorite snack? Denny Hamlin says it's anything with peanut butter; Chase Elliott says nothing beats a big bowl of cereal; and Austin Dillon says a chocolate chip cookie is hard to top.

A: I'm kind of a snack connoisseur. I'd say that a guilty pleasure of mine, especially growing up, is Swiss Cake rolls. Growing up, I was a big Swiss Cake Roll eater. I really loved Swiss Cake rolls. I'd always get them at the gas station, and there always has to be a box at my house and a box in my bus at all times.

Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.