Dave Blaney’s career-best third-place qualifying effort at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday topped a trio of front-running Bill Davis Racing entries which follow top qualifiers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin to the green flag for the...
Dave Blaney’s career-best third-place qualifying effort at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday topped a trio of front-running Bill Davis Racing entries which follow top qualifiers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin to the green flag for the NAPA 500 on Sunday. Blaney had a previous WC career-best start of fourth in the #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge in four different races, including the NAPA 500 last November.
Teammate Ward Burton (fourth) and 2002 BDR regular Hut Stricklin (11th) qualified within .12 of Blaney, who narrowly missed joining Earnhardt on the front row in his quest for retribution after dominating the middle stages of the spring race at AMS, only to fall deep in the field at the finish after a pit-stop mistake.
Blaney also briefly became a first-time NASCAR winner in spring, 1999, when he finished second in the Busch Series race at AMS, then was awarded the win after winner Mike Skinner’s car was disqualified following the post-race inspections. A review board reversed the decision four days later, returning the win to Skinner and the runner-up status to Blaney.
"I honestly thought we had a little bit more in it," said Blaney. The car ran so good all day we hated to make many changes and mess it up, so we left what we had and tried to get a little more out of it. We’re real pleased with third. We’ve got the same car. The rules are a little different than we had here in the spring, but I enjoy running here. I really can’t say why, but we’ve done fairly well and we enjoy coming here. We’ll work real hard tomorrow to get the car to run the way it did in the spring so it’ll run fast early and late in the runs. If we get that accomplished, we’ll have a shot at it."
"We lost the front end right in the center of the corner or maybe we could have beaten Mark. We weren’t going to catch Dale. It doesn’t take much here to add up. It wasn’t bad. We’re happy with it. Nobody owes you anything. We’ll just see if we can have a good car and give‘ em a run for their money Sunday. It’s the same car we had here in March. We qualified seventh in the spring, so we were kind of in the ball park all weekend there, too. The car has been quick all day. We couldn’t decided what to do in qualifying. We had a couple of changes we wanted to make late, but we were afraid we would mess it up. We could have run a little faster, and we probably could have had a shot at the pole, but we’re still happy with it. I think we’ve got a good shot on Sunday."
FACTS & FIGURES: NAPA 500 (Atlanta Motor Speedway/11-18-2001)
DAVE BLANEY and BP-Amoco Ultimate Team 93 started 14th and finished sixth last weekend at Miami, tying his WC career-best; rallying from a slow pit-stop early in the race which dropped him to 27th in the running order; BLANEY passed more than 50 cars for the fifth time this season as he charged into contention late in the race; BLANEY led 70 laps at Atlanta (March) before a late-race mistake in the pits derailed his effort; he earned a career-best-tying sixth-place finish at Michigan (August), running as high as fourth in the final laps of the rain-shortened race; his third-place qualifying effort for the NAPA 500 at Atlanta topped his former career-best WC start (fourth) at Miami (1999), Daytona (7/00), Atlanta (11/00) and Michigan (6/01).
In seven NASCAR starts (5 WC, 2 Busch) at AMS, BLANEY has never qualified out of the top-ten, including his WC career-best third-place effort for Sunday’s NAPA 500 and a track-record Busch pole in March, 1999 and starts of ninth (28.963 secs.) and fourth (28.792 secs.) in 2000; he qualified seventh (28.976 secs.) for the spring race at AMS, finishing 34th after the pit-stop problem; BLANEY contended for his first NASCAR win last fall at AMS, but was hit from behind on the final restart while in fifth and finished 18th, two laps down to winner Jerry Nadeau.
BLANEY ranks 23rd in the Winston Cup points standings (3128), three points behind Terry Labonte in 22nd; BLANEY has a best-start of fourth (MIS) and best-finishes of sixth (Texas, MIS-2, Miami) in 34 starts during this season; BLANEY also ranks 20th in miles-completed (92.6%), more than 85% of his unfinished miles coming in the Daytona 500 (engine failure) in New Hampshire, Dover and Charlotte (blown tires).
NOTES FROM SPRING RACE
Justifiably overshadowed by the heart-wrenching, heart-stopping photo-finish victory by Winston Cup novice Kevin Harvick, Dave Blaney’s startling performance in the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this spring was relegated to footnote status for all but those within the Bill Davis Racing organization that had been expecting a break-out effort by the former sprint-car star in just his fourth NASCAR season.
Blaney led 70 laps in the Amoco Ultimate Team 93 Dodge through the race’s middle stages and enjoyed an eight-second advantage over his nearest challenger before experiencing a vibration after a pit-stop just past the two-thirds mark in the 325-lap race. After a green-flag stop indicated that all lug nuts were tight, Blaney again felt the vibration and lost a left-rear wheel just as a caution flag fell 100 laps from the finish. Following repairs, he limped home 34th while Harvick edged Jeff Gordon by inches in one of the most emotional finishes in NASCAR history.