On Monday, WVU basketball royalty made his way to the Coliseum in Morgantown for the Mountaineers’ season opener.
Dale Blaney played for West Virginia back in 1983-86 and was a star in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He was first-team all-league, an all-tournament selection twice, averaged 17 points his senior season and in 124 career games averaged 12.3 points. Blaney was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1986 and apparently had made the roster but quit.
To begin his career path to auto racing royalty.
Racing fans know of what I write.
Blaney became a six-time champion of the All Star Circuit of Champions. He recorded 11 victories with the World of Outlaws, the top touring series in sprint car racing. His brother Dave was also a successful sprint car driver before racing in NASCAR, competing for both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series. Even father Lou was credited with multiple Midwest victories.
But the shining moment for the family came on Sunday.
Dale’s nephew Ryan Blaney raced to his first career NASCAR championship by banging his way past contender Kyle Larson in the closing laps at Phoenix Raceway to give Team Penske back-to-back Cup titles. Ryan became the first Ohio-born driver to win the Cup title.
“It was a great day for everybody in the Blaney family,” Dale told me on Monday. “We’ve been racing for years and years from my dad to my brother and myself to Ryan. It’s cool for Ryan to accomplish that feat. Not many get to do it. Pretty neat, that’s for sure.”
Ryan Blaney has driven for Penske since 2013, when he was 19 years old.
“Obviously I come from a family of racers, my grandfather, dad and uncle,” Blaney told Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. “Dad [Dave] is obviously who I grew up watching and admiring, wanted to be like. To be able to do what he did, ’cause as a kid I just wanted to do what dad did… To be able to race — let alone compete for wins and championships — and still have my parents around, people that you look up to that are still around, it makes it even more special.”
Dale Blaney said you can actually trace the racing bloodline all the way back to his father’s father. Then father Lou started when he was 18.
“I grew up with it,” Dale said. “That’s pretty much all I wanted to do, but basketball got in the way for a little bit.”
Dale Blaney just happened to have a sweet jump shot – much to WVU fans’ delight.
“I’m not sure where that came from,” he deadpanned.
“It’s like if your dad was a dentist, you probably grew up be a dentist. My brother and I were able to accomplish quite a bit in racing and now Ryan has done really, really well. No doubt about that.”
Dale said his nephew began racing around nine or 10 years old.
“When he got to be 14 and first got in a Super Late model on pavement, you could kind of tell he had the ability to do good in the sport,” Dale said. “He always had a natural ability to do it. He had a good feel for what he was doing.”
Ryan Blaney was born in the family’s hometown of Hartford Township, Ohio, but grew up in North Carolina, so the uncle and nephew didn’t get to connect much until age 13.
“I hadn’t seen him race because I was in Ohio racing on weekends for nine months a year,” said Dale. “Then, when he was 13, he came up. Dave was still racing some Sprint Car stuff every now and then when he was racing NASCAR. Ryan hung out with me for four days until Dave got there and started racing.”
Dale said he’s watched his nephew in person “seven or eight times,” as well as on TV. The first-hand experiences may begin to increase, though, in the very near future. Dale is 59 and finally starting to slow his racing.
“I’m still going a little bit,” he said. “I raced more this summer than I did in the past three. 2019 was my last racing full-time. I probably only ran seven or eight races combined 2021-22. This year, though, a friend of mine got a car and wanted me to drive it. I probably ran it 30, 35 times. I have maybe have one summer left, maybe not. I’ve made enough laps in my lifetime… It’s a young man’s sport. I’ll be 60. The 22-year-olds will beat the hell out of me.”
Dale Blaney, by the way, has done some basketball coaching, most recently as an assistant at Westminster College. He’s worked in schools and at a fabrication shop.
It’s been quite a whirlwind. He’s in the WVU athletic Hall of Fame. He’s won in racing. He’s a winner.
And his nephew Ryan just put the crowning achievement on the family’s claim to racing royalty.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.