Ryan Blaney interested in a future Indy 500 run

John K Harrelson/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Right now Ryan Blaney’s sole focus is competing for a championship in his final year with Wood Brothers Racing (WBR).

But in the future Blaney’s aim might move to a bottle of milk – the reward for winners of the Indianapolis 500.

“I would love to do it,” Blaney said of completing ‘The Double’ – and 1100-mile effort that consists of running the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. “I have a lot of respect for the people that have done it. That is a tough day of racing. 1,100 miles and the plane rides back and forth.”

Blaney isn’t the first NASCAR driver to express interest in participating in the Month of May and completing The Double.

Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch each voiced hopes to undertake the effort over this season’s summer months, with Busch claiming a near-complete deal was shot down this season. Brad Keselowski tested Team Penske partner Simon Pagenaud’s No. 22 Chevrolet Indy car in a 2016 test at Road America, though he’s shied away from making any Indy 500 commitments in the time since.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch is the lone active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to attempt the feat. The 2004 Cup Series champion took a cue from team owner Tony Stewart when he managed a sixth-place result in the 2014 Indy 500 before losing an engine at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Blaney noted their runs, saying “When Kurt (Busch) and Tony (Stewart) did it, I thought that was really neat.”

Blaney comes from a family of open wheel racers, though their experience rests more on sprint cars and dirt tracks than Indy cars at the Brickyard. Father Dave Blaney and uncle Dale Blaney each compete regularly in sprint cars, running with tours including the World of Outlaws and All Stars Circuit of Champions. Dave is the 1995 World of Outlaws champion. Grandfather Lou Blaney also competed in modified and sprint cars throughout his career.

The youngest racer in the Blaney family, Ryan doesn’t have the open wheel experience of his elders. However, he does have connections to one of the IndyCar Series’ best teams.

Blaney, 23, is slated to compete for Team Penske in the Cup Series in 2018 after two full seasons with Penske affiliate WBR. Team Penske owner Roger Penske holds the record for Indy 500 victories, having triumphed 16 times in the legendary race since 1972.

Penske’s Indy 500 lineup for 2018 (and potentially the foreseeable future) is already lined up. Full-time drivers Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power will all contest the event next season, as will Helio Castroneves in a part-time effort. Juan Pablo Montoya also waits in the wings should an opportunity arise.

With Castroneves and Montoya (both 42 years old) each creeping up in age, and Blaney expected to have years to come in his young career, the potential for an open Indy 500 ride to arise at Penske during his tenure with the team is high.

While he wouldn’t make any commitments or demands, Blaney expressed hope that an opportunity will come sometime during his time as a driver.

“It is something I have always wanted to do and hopefully I can do it one day,” Blaney said. “Maybe down the road. The Penske group is pretty good at the Indy 500 so hopefully I will get that chance.

“My interest level is really high and I would love to do it to say I was a part of it and able to race that event.”

Just five drivers have attempted The Double. John Andretti was the first, accomplishing the feat in 1994.  IndyCar Series veteran Davy Jones attempted the effort in 1995, but failed to qualify at Charlotte. Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon followed in the late 90s and early 2000s, with Stewart’s 2001 result (sixth in Indy, third in Charlotte) standing as the best effort to date. No other drivers made an attempt until Busch’s run in 2014.

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