The 2019 First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway was a tense race for Ryan Blaney and William Byron for a couple reasons.
For one, it was during the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which has every driver in an ultra-competitive headspace. While Byron's runner-up finish ultimately wouldn't really mean much, since he had already been eliminated from the playoffs the week before, Blaney was still in the Round of 8 field and needed as many solid finishes as possible (he'd place fifth at Martinsville and get eliminated from the Round of 8 two races later). But, keeping himself in playoff contention wasn't the only reason that Blaney raced Byron hard that day in Ridgeway, Virginia. The second reason was a little more personal: just hours before the race, Ryan discovered that William was dating his sister, Erin.
"My buddy's like, 'Hey I didn't know about Willy and your sister,'" Blaney recalled during a 2020 interview with NASCAR on NBC. "And I'm like, 'What are you talking about?'"
Rather than immediately let Byron know that he had the inside scoop on the relationship, Blaney opted to hold off on the big reveal.
"I really wanted to mess with him before the race and really tell him that I slyly figured it out, but I didn't," Blaney said. "I texted Erin first. 'I think you forgot to tell me some news.' I mean, people always ask me, 'Are you mad that Will is dating your sister?' I don't care, she's 22 and can do whatever she wants. And I like him. So it's all good."
Once Byron, who drives the No. 24 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, discovered how and when Blaney found out about him and Erin, things started to click a little bit in regards to that Martinsville race.
"Oh gosh," Byron said. "Man. No wonder he raced me so hard that day. I should have handled that better."
Ryan filled William in on the news during a card game, which Byron admitted was "a little awkward," though things are thankfully a lot less weird between Blaney and Byron nowadays. In fact, every year, Ryan, Erin, and William all go on an offseason holiday trip with a few friends.
"We rent a big house and just go hang out," Blaney said. "And we had made this plan before they started dating. She'd sent a text to our group chat, like, 'Hey do you mind if Willy B. comes?' And I'm like, 'I don't care. It's fine.' We had a good time. He was a little shy at first, not really knowing a ton of people in our group, but he's a good guy."
Getting to Know Erin Blaney
Erin Blaney comes from a big racing family. She's, of course, the sister of Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney, but she's also the daughter of former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney and the granddaughter of modified dirt track legend Lou Blaney. Plus, her sister Emma is married to racer Cale Conley. So, dating a NASCAR driver was pretty much a given for Erin.
A graduate of the University of Alabama (she got her bachelor's degree in human environmental sciences, public health education and promotion, and minored in advertising), Erin is the Executive Director of the Ryan Blaney Family Foundation, which raises awareness and funding for brain health causes, particularly focusing on Alzheimer's and concussions. According to her Instagram page, Blaney also works for Kathryn Lilly Interiors, an interior design service based in Cornelius, North Carolina.
Erin and William have been officially dating since October 2019, and they live in Charlotte with their dog Frankie. What a happy family!
MORE: "It's Very Stressful": William Byron's Back-to-Back Cup Wins Haven't Come Easily
Enjoy all things sports?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.