6.18.13 (via INDYCAR Nation) – Shelby Blackstock might not have had the traditional racing background, but he certainly seems to be making up for lost time.
A year after joining the Mazda Road to Indy, the 23-year-old Nashville resident is competing in Pro Mazda with Andretti Autosport. He has proven to be a quick study, as his current P3 in the standings has proven.
The son of country superstar Reba McEntire and her husband/manager Narvel Blackstock, Shelby is focused on moving up the Mazda Road to Indy and into IndyCar. For now, he’s looking towards developing through the rest of this Pro Mazda season. In the run-up to Pro Mazda’s race as part of Milwaukee IndyFest, Shelby (or “Shelbilly”, if you want to use his nickname) took some time for INDYCAR Nation to talk about his season and aspirations in INDYCAR.
You’re with a new team (Andretti Autosport) in a new series (Pro Mazda) this year. How would you rate this season so far?
SB: I’d say it’s been good. Overall, I mean it’s a mix of learning while I’m trying to go for the championship at the same time. I think we’ve had five straight podiums, and really the elusive thing right now is that win. I’m still just focusing on getting as many consistent podiums and hopefully wins as I can, and hopefully contend for the championship. Of course, my teammate Matt [Brabham] has been really strong this year. He’s such a good driver, and I’m learning a lot from him and the rest of the team.
How would describe the culture at Andretti Autosport, considering they’re a team that competes throughout the Mazda Road to Indy?
SB: Really good—they’re very welcoming. They have the right tools for the job—the equipment you’re in is going to be competitive. Every aspect there, from marketing to media to driver coaching, is excellent. It’s great to have that in-house, to be able to walk over to James Hinchcliffe or Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and ask him something about driving.
With Andretti, there’s experience and background with everything. You can go to Zach Veach, who did Star Mazda—back before it was Pro Mazda—and ask him how he’d deal with a car or how he drove, and try to apply it to what you’re doing. It’s really an awesome place to be, and you just have to be willing to take advantage of all those resources.
Is there a driver at Andretti right now you’d consider a mentor, or that you could say you’ve learned the most from?
SB: I’d say it would have to be Hinch. He’s very, very open, and he’s the sort of guy you can just walk up to and start a conversation. He’s extremely outgoing, and is the sort if you come up and ask him to look at something like data, he’ll point out where you can review. He’s also great with fans, and so he’s a great role model for young drivers looking to interact on social media.
Having said that, I also have watched Ryan Hunter-Reay, and see how he carries himself as a champion. As an ambassador and example of working hard while juggling a family, he has been really impressive to see. You sort of watch and learn, gauging everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and try to take what you can in bettering your own career.