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Friday, May 20, 2022
Home Sports NASCAR Kobe Bryant's lasting impact on one NASCAR driver

Kobe Bryant’s lasting impact on one NASCAR driver


Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney had a chance to speak to the late Kobe Bryant just over a year before his death.

Today, two years ago, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The late five-time NBA champion has left a lasting impact on many, including quite a few in the NASCAR community.

But maybe no one feels that impact anymore like Team Penske manager Ryan Blaney.

Blaney honored Bryant with a special LYFWATER paint scheme on his # 12 Ford in the March 2020 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

“It was really special to be able to run the Kobe Tribute Scheme in California to honor that tragedy, he and his daughter and the other individuals involved,” he said.

He also had the opportunity to meet Bryant during an October 2018 Las Vegas dinner through the independently owned American sports drink; Bryant was a major investor in that company and played a major role in starting it in 2011 and 2012.

He even got the chance to talk to the 18-time All-Star one-on-one that evening.

“We had a dinner, it was a big dinner with a lot of liquor companies that BODYARMOR worked with, a lot of retailers,” Blaney recalls in an interview with Beyond the flag in the aftermath of Bryant’s death. “To be able to talk to Kobe, we talked for 15 or 20 minutes just him and me, we gave him a fire suit that we ran at Indianapolis earlier that year; he was so excited about that gift. ”

The 28-year-old even discussed Bryant’s famous “Mamba Mentality” and how it was crystal clear, even in their 15-20 minute discussion, due to Bryant’s pure passion for as much as he could take in from the NASCAR star.

Blaney admitted that it even made him a little nervous.

“Just to get his mindset; as a child, growing up and looking at Kobe and his mentality about everything that just came out of our conversation, ”he continued. “He asked me questions about racing to which I knew 100% the answer, but I was nervous about confusing it because he was so intense, something he did not even know about.

“But he really wanted to learn everything about it in a matter of 15 minutes. It just shows what kind of person and competitor he was and his mindset that goes for anything, just his outlook on life, you could see it on the track, from the track, that he could achieve. ”

Talking to Bryant, for whom he grew up, was a dream come true for Blaney.

“It was an absolute dream come true for me, to be able to sit and talk like that with someone, someone I idolized from a young age, and just what they did in their sport,” he said. “And you can learn a lot from people like that, just really in your everyday life, even if you do not play sports, so it was definitely a dream come true, and it would not have happened without BODYARMOR.”

Blaney, who entered the 2021 season as a four-time Cup Series race winner, scored the first of his three wins of the year at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.

That win was his first win with BODYARMOR as the primary sponsor of his # 12 Ford. He also paid tribute to Bryant after the victory..

“It’s an experience I will never forget, being able to talk to him during dinner,” he concluded.



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