BLANEY RELISHES LOW-PROFILE ROLE IN 2000 RAYBESTOS ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR RACE WHILE AMOCO ULTIMATE TEAM 93 PREPARES FOR MOVE TO NASCAR WINSTON CUP SERIES AS SPEEDWEEKS 2000 BEGINS HIGH POINT, NC -- Regardless of the public positioning prior to ...
BLANEY RELISHES LOW-PROFILE ROLE IN 2000 RAYBESTOS ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR RACE WHILE AMOCO ULTIMATE TEAM 93 PREPARES FOR MOVE TO NASCAR WINSTON CUP SERIES AS SPEEDWEEKS 2000 BEGINS
HIGH POINT, NC -- Regardless of the public positioning prior to the season-opening Speedweeks events in Daytona in February, it is an absolute certainty that Dave Blaney will be the least hyped of any of the primary NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year candidates for the 2000 season. He couldn't be happier.
Blaney, whose sterling racing career has not been plagued by overt self-promotion, will be operating under significantly less expectations than either Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Matt Kenseth, the top Chevrolet and Ford WC rookie candidates in 2000. And because his goals since starting his stock car career two years ago have been decidedly different than almost any other Busch Series regular aspiring to Winston Cup status, Blaney will continue to measure his progress in 2000 on terms that are relative primarily to himself, Crew Chief Gil Martin and Car Owner Bill Davis.
"I've said before that I probably waited a few years too long to make the move from the sprint cars to stock cars," said the 37-year old Blaney, the 1995 World of Outlaws champion who won almost 200 sprint car races over 15 seasons (1983-97) before becoming a NASCAR Busch Series rookie during the 1998 season. "In a way, I've had less time to learn, less time to spend getting it right and the same will apply this season when we step up to the Winston Cup Series.
"The good thing about that, though, is that both Bill Davis and Amoco understood and were very forgiving about what they were asking of both myself and our young team to get all this done in three seasons and the expectations were all internal. With the struggles that other World of Outlaws guys have had trying to get situated in NASCAR, a lot of people figured I would go the same route and be back over there on dirt pretty fast.
"But Bill (Davis) and Gil (Martin) have both done everything they could to give me the very best chance a guy could have to get this done. The same will happen this year. Bill's plan to 'grow' the #93 Amoco/Siemens team into a Winston Cup program to go with the #22 team and Ward (Burton) is the way a lot of these other owners will probably look to go in the future. It makes sense.
"It's really what both Dale and Matt and their teams have also done. They were 1-2 for two years in the Busch points, have great teams and have built over two years to get to where they can go to the Cup side in 2000. I just believe that the expectations on both of those guys are going to be huge. They're both in their 20's and have big futures ahead of them. I feel I've got a lot to contribute as well but it may go like it has so far for me. Whatever we do will be more than most people are going to expect from us anyway. And that suits me fine. I like that challenge."
As the 1999 season closed, Blaney and Amoco Ultimate Team 93 were solidly in the top-ten in the NASCAR Busch Series team point standings (sixth) and had become a weekly contender for pole positions and top finishes, his best performances coming at Winston Cup Series tracks against fields filled with drivers running weekly in NASCAR's premier series. Nine of his 12 top-ten finishes came at tracks on which he will run WC races this season.
In the team's first test at Daytona during General Motors two-day session in mid-January, Blaney posted the tenth-best overall lap among the 29 drivers (52 cars) taking times, ranking just ahead of his BDR teammate Ward Burton and the #22 Caterpillar/Polaris Pontiac that finished ninth in the overall NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings in 1999. In his four restrictor plate races over two seasons in the Busch Series, Blaney never qualified out of the top ten and expects to get his 2000 rookie season off to a good start when the team travels to Daytona for Speedweeks 2000.
"I've was more comfortable in our first five races the Winston Cup cars than I ever was in the early going trying to learn the Busch Series cars," said Blaney, who closed the 1999 season with top-ten WC starts at Miami and Atlanta. "I've always raced cars with a huge horsepower-to-weight ratio and the Winston Cup cars have the sort of response that guys like Tony Sttewart and I are more familiar with. I know he felt the same thing last season and it showed in the way he was able to run.
"I'm not saying that we won't struggle because I know that the Winston Cup Series is the most competitive racing there is but I believe that we'll have the kind of motors and equipment to make the right progress. The #22 team had a great year in 1999 and they're only going to get better.
Our goals will be to make sure the two-team program works and continue to move forward. Our expectations for this year will continue to be pretty much our own. It's worked so far."