Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) press release
Emotional Rollercoaster Leads to Top-15 Finish for Tommy Baldwin Racing and Dave Blaney in Daytona 500
No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet finished 15th in Great American Race
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 28, 2012) – In a whirlwind NASCAR Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, the No. 36 Ollie's Bargain Outlet Chevrolet and driver Dave Blaney drove to a 15th-place finish in the 54th annual Daytona 500, but the event was not without excitement. During a lap 158 caution, the Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) team decided to stay out to lead a lap when the No. 42 Chevrolet unexpectedly hit the jet dryer. The incident led to a 2-hour red flag with Blaney in the lead.
NASCAR Speedweeks started with the No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet team having to qualify for the Great American Race. During qualifying Blaney posted the 32nd-fastest lap, fifth of the cars that needed to qualify. Since only the top-three times were locked into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season opener, the TBR Chevrolet then had to get a transfer spot in the Gatorade Duel races. Blaney secured the top transfer spot in the final Gatorade Duel on Thursday with a 12th-place finish.
Rain on Sunday and Monday morning postponed the Daytona 500 to Monday night for the first time in the race’s 54-year history and the first Monday night primetime race in NASCAR history. The No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet started in the 24th position. A six-car pileup on the second lap of the NSCS season opener brought out the night’s first caution. Crew Chief Ryan Pemberton called for Blaney to stay out, and he restarted 20th on lap eight.
Blaney drove up to the 14th position when the No. 39 Chevrolet spun in turn two and brought out the caution. Blaney drove the No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet down pit road for a four-tire pit stop and restarted 24th on lap 17. A long-green flag run led to green-flag pit stops. Slow traffic ahead caused Blaney to hit the brakes. The tire popped on his way onto pit road and caused damage to the right, front fender.
The No. 36 team changed two-tires and put Barebond on the damage. A debris caution on lap 65 allowed Blaney to drive back down pit road. The team continued to fix the damage and changed four tires. Racing in the top-25, Blaney radioed that the steering wheel felt different and made the car feel tight. The team decided to hang back around the halfway point to stay out of trouble while drivers raced for the halfway bonus.
After the halfway point, Blaney began to race his way back to the front. He radioed to Pemberton that he needed help turning to be able to get up front. He kept the No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet in the top-20 throughout the next run. NASCAR called a caution for the No. 15 car stopped on the track on lap 130. Blaney drove down pit road and the TBR crew changed four tires, checked the front, right fender damage and made a chassis adjustment. Pemberton radioed that the team would only need one more stop before the end of the 200-lap event.
The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet restarted in the 20th spot on lap 133. Blaney continued to race in the top-25 and struggled with the car’s handling. The No. 30 car spun in turn three and brought out the seventh caution of the day on lap 158. Pemberton radioed to the team to change four tires, add fuel, make a trackbar adjustment and pull out any bent in fenders.
Pemberton and spotter/owner Tommy Baldwin decided to stay out when the lead lap cars pit to get a bonus point for leading a lap. The team was in the second position on the first lap and stayed out again. At this point, the team decided to wait until the one-to-go signal to make the pit stop in order to have enough fuel to finish the race.
During the caution period, a part broke on Juan Pablo Montoya’s Chevrolet, and he spun into a jet dryer on the track and set it ablaze. NASCAR Officials displayed the red flag to clean up the track and assess whether the surface was safe to go back racing. With track conditions and a line of rain headed toward the track, the TBR team waited anxiously for an announcement on whether the field would resume racing.
The red flag lasted for two hours and five minutes with Blaney in the top-spot before NASCAR radioed for drivers to start their cars. The No. 36 Chevrolet stayed on the track for three yellow flag laps to ensure the surface was safe to race on and weather was not headed to the track. At the one-to-go signal, Blaney gave up the lead and drove down pit road for a four-tire pit stop and chassis adjustment.
Green flag racing resumed on lap 167 with the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet in the 23rd position. Twelve laps later, four cars made contact and piled up in front of Blaney, and he maneuvered his way through the cars with no damage. He kept the car in the top-20 when a melee occurred going into turn one. Seven cars crashed with heavy damage. Baldwin calmly directed his driver through the spinning cars and debris on the track. The teamwork got Blaney through the wreck with no damage. Since there was a lot of debris on the track, the team decided to change four tires to be safe.
Blaney restarted in the 19th position on lap 194. He drove the No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet into the 15th position with five laps to go. On lap 198, cars made contact ahead of Blaney. With nowhere to go, the No. 36 Chevrolet spun along with seven other cars. The Hartford, Ohio native radioed to the crew that the car did not have any damage but he needed tires. The TBR crew changed four tires and sent the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet back on track for a green-white-checkered finish.
Blaney restarted in the 15th position, and as the front of the field ran single file until the last lap, he maintained his position. The No. 36 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet took the checkered flag of the 2012 Daytona 500 in the 15th position.
The No. 36 Chevrolet is now 15th in NSCS Owner Points, one point behind the No. 9 in 13th and one point ahead of the No. 14 Chevrolet in 16th. Blaney is now tied for 14th in NSCS Driver Points with Bobby Labonte. The NSCS will begin to use the top-35 from 2012 Owners Points at Martinsville Speedway April 1.
“We had trouble early when we knocked the fender off,” explained Blaney. “We were still competitive after that but not near as good in the pack as we were before the damage. Overall, we came out of Daytona with a racecar with minimal damage and a 15th-place finish. That was our goal; to get as many points as we could in case something happens with qualifying in the next few weeks.”
“There was nothing you could do at the end of the race,” Blaney continued. “There was something about the package that made it so you couldn’t do anything. If it was two-wide, the cars would stall out. For some reason, you couldn’t make anything happen. I was shocked that the green-white-checker wasn’t crazier, but that’s the way it was.”
“During the red flag, a lot of things went through my head,” said Blaney. “There is no way you expect they are going to call it off, so I didn’t think they would. But then, I kept watching the track workers, and it was hard to tell. Most of the drivers around me thought it was going to get it called off, but I didn’t. I was disappointed for about 10 seconds when we had to pit with one to go but that was it. I’m just glad we had the finish we had and got a lot of good exposure for our team and Ollie’s during the broadcast.”
Blaney will return to NSCS competition in the No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. David Reutimann will take the reigns of the No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 for his TBR debut.