NASCAR Illustrated's Steven Levine sits down to catch up with NASCAR Next and 2014 Drive for Diversity driver Ryan Gifford .
Drive for Diversity member Ryan Gifford shows the world that he is one of NASCAR's Next stars.
Gifford will be running two Nationwide Series races this season
Ryan Gifford previews his first NNS race at Iowa Speedway.
Ryan Gifford talks about his first win in the K&N Series.
After 43 K&N Series starts Ryan Gifford wins his first race at Richmond International Raceway
NASCAR Next driver to run at Iowa and Kentucky
NASCAR Next driver had been suspended for pit road altercation at Loudon
RELATED: See how Blaney won at Kentucky On the surface, it's a bit of an unorthodox NASCAR schedule for Ryan Blaney . The 21-year-old is running part-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Wood Brothers Racing in the No. 21 Ford and the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Team Penske in the No. 22 Ford, all while making a handful of starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing in the No. 29 Ford. "By the time all the races are added up, it's almost a full schedule," Blaney told NASCAR.com last weekend at Kentucky Speedway . "It has its positives and negatives to be running part-time in everything. The great thing is I get to run three great series with amazing race teams that I know will go out and have a fast car or truck every weekend or every time I get in them. Those are big positives that I can drive different things every single week." And the negatives? "It's hard to get in a rhythm of running the same car, so that's kind of tough," Blaney said. "That takes myself and the team time to get back acclimated to the driver and me to the race car. It has its ups and downs, but I'm fortunate to be with three great race teams and be able to do what we love and be competitive." Blaney did not have trouble finding a rhythm as he wheeled the No. 22 Ford to Victory Lane in the XFINITY Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway . He led a race-high 81 laps and used a strong restart on a green-white-checkered finish to take home the win. The victory was the second time in three years that Team Penske has swept the season's two Kentucky XFINITY races. "Honestly, I've never seen a team be so dominant at a race track," Blaney said after the win. "It feels like every time we come here, the 22 car is one of the favorites to win and usually does it." Greg Erwin, the No. 22 team's crew chief, has noticed Blaney's growth firsthand since seeing him in 2013. In addition to the Kentucky win, Erwin and Blaney teamed up for a win in August at Iowa Speedway . "He's certainly a little more polished," Erwin noted of Blaney's development as a driver. "I think his communication is a little more precise. I think his confidence is certainly high and I think he's got the talent, certainly that it takes, and the rest of that will come with time behind a steering wheel. That's the hardest thing right now I think, is jumping in, running in all three series and getting as much time on the race track as he can." In his young career, Blaney has four wins each in the XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series. And in his first part-time Sprint Cup Series season, he scored his best Sprint Cup finish in May at Talladega with a fourth-place result. His Wood Brothers No. 21 team has had speed, but qualifying rainouts have been the bugaboo. RELATED: Blaney discusses 'very frustrating' Cup qualifying rainouts Along the way to becoming a rising young talent in the sport, Blaney has had some guidance, namely from his dad, Dave, as well as 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski . "Brad's been one of the biggest mentors for me right after my dad," Blaney said of Keselowski's impact on his career. "He gave me an opportunity in 2012 to drive his trucks for him and I did that for a couple years, which opened the doors at Penske and it opened the doors at the Wood Brothers. He's kind of been the main guy that’s started me off in my career getting racing in the top three series and I can't thank him enough for that. He's taught me so much on the race track, off the race track. He's been really helpful to me. "Brad's a unique teacher. To be able to drive for him has been really cool too, because you can kind of see the owner in him. And then when he would drive the other truck sometimes and I could race against him that was really, really neat. ... You'd ask him a question and he'd give you part of an answer and then you would kind of have to figure the rest of it out, and I really liked that. It's kind of the way my dad did it. "He's obviously one of the smartest racers out there, I feel like, when it comes to strategy and always thinking inside the car. That's something I've tried to take from him. ... Not only on the racing side, just thinking of other things too, whether it's underneath the car to try to make it faster, things like that." Dave Blaney , a veteran of 473 Sprint Cup Series starts and the 1995 World of Outlaws Champion, has impacted his son's career as well. Ryan credits his dad with teaching him a lesson that has become invaluable to him with extended seat time and longer races in the Sprint Cup Series. "Patience is one of the biggest things in racing, especially now that I've gotten started doing some Cup stuff," Ryan Blaney said. "Five-hundred-mile races, one 600-miler that we do ... those are long races. A lot longer than Truck and XFINITY races and that's really been a big learning curve for me of how you have so many opportunities to work on your race car and you have to be really precise with how you change things. "That was the biggest change to me. Running Trucks for a couple of years, the races are so short. You only have a couple of chances to work on your truck, so you take huge swings. In the Cup car, you can't really do that, you have to take littler steps and kind of fine-tune things. That was one of the biggest things he taught me early and now I'm kind of figuring it out for myself." And with silly season talk running rampant throughout the garage and in the media, Blaney remains focused on finishing out 2015 strong. With a Kentucky win in his pocket, Blaney is on the entry list for Saturday's XFINITY Series Hisense 200 at Dover International Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Honestly, we'd like to do more races but that's a lot easier said than done," he said. "I think the best thing we can do is try to focus on winning races in this 22 car, try to bring home a (owner's) championship (in XFINITY ) and finishing out the season strong with the Wood Brothers is going to be really big for our cause. We're working on it. Hopefully, we will know something soon."
RELATED: Race results " Updated standings SPARTA, Ky. – Ryan Blaney would not be denied Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway . In fact, Blaney may owe a pushing Regan Smith dinner after a green-white-checkered restart proved to be the saving grace for the driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang, who won his second NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season in Saturday night's VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 . Blaney appeared to be heading towards Victory Lane, but an attack from Ty Dillon on a restart with eight laps to go sent him from first to third. Then, a caution waved with four laps remaining and reset the field into overtime. "We were just even with the 3 (Dillon), and the 7 (Smith) gave us a good push [on the final restart]," said Blaney who captured his fourth career XFINITY Series win. "Luckily we were able to get a good [push] and just get a little bit of position on the 3 to kind of use up the race track and get in front of him. I knew once we were clear we had a really good shot at it. "A great Discount Tire Ford Mustang. We were great all night. It was just a matter getting up the front. Clean air was so important." As for the next-to-last restart, which saw Blaney's winning chances temporarily fall, momentum worked against him. "Kentucky is such a great race track because you can see three or four wide racing in the first corner and as the leader you have to protect and I didn't know where the 7 (Smith) was going, he kind of faked me out going to the top and that was able to open up the middle and it just lost all of our momentum," Blaney said. For Dillon, he was frustrated with his runner-up performance. "First of all, I am disappointed for second, and that's a good thing," Dillon said. "I'm proud to be sitting here saying that. Earlier this year, we didn't have that opportunity to say that very often. Man, it hurts when you've got a big lead with four to go - I don't even know what the caution was for - but, that's a stinger." Just before halfway Brennan Poole spun in Turn 1 collecting Harrison Rhodes and spewing liquid from Poole's car putting the field under the red flag for cleanup. The race was halted for 18 minutes and 27 seconds, with the field returning to idle conditions and the race resuming with 95 laps remaining. Brandon Jones grabbed the lead on a busy restart and held it through the next caution. With rain in the area, Jones stayed out, while others pitted. MORE: Poole spins and get slammed When racing resumed, Jones controlled the field for 16 laps until Blaney made the pass to retake the lead on Lap 128 and through green flag pit stops, set the tone for the finish of the final standalone race of the season. Chris Buescher , who finished seventh, now leads Dillon by 19 points in the standings with six races remaining. Chase Elliott , who finished fourth, is third, 25 points out.