Blaney's Sixth-Place Finish At Michigan A Footnote To Nascar History; Dodge Returns To Victory Lane & Places Three In Top Six HIGH POINT, N.C.– While Sterling Marlin was etching his name in NASCAR history by driving a Dodge to victory lane...
Blaney's Sixth-Place Finish At Michigan A Footnote To Nascar History; Dodge Returns To Victory Lane & Places Three In Top Six
HIGH POINT, N.C.– While Sterling Marlin was etching his name in NASCAR history by driving a Dodge to victory lane for the first time in 25 years, Dave Blaney produced another dramatic "back-to-front" charge to earn a footnote in Dodge history, racing from 41st to sixth in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan Speedway to join Marlin and Bill Elliott (third) at the front for Dodge's long-awaited celebration.
Just as he did at Texas and Chicago earlier this season, Blaney and his #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge charged through the field from the back rows at Michigan to equal his career-best sixth-place finish in April at Texas. Both Blaney (41st) and Bill Davis Racing teammate Ward Burton (37th) were forced to take provisional starting positions after the BDR teams missed the qualifying set-up, the first time in the organization's history when both BDR cars were forced to take provisionals to start a NASCAR Winston Cup event.
But Blaney passed 10 cars in the first 10 laps and moved swiftly into the top-20 before Lap 50 as overcast skies threatened to wash-out the 200-lap event early in the afternoon. After a rain-delay at the halfway point, Blaney was better, moving into the top-ten with shrewd pit strategy from Crew Chief Doug Randolph,
Before heavy rains finished the day prematurely on lap 162, Blaney ran as high as fourth inside the final 20 laps, challenging eventual winner Marlin, runner-up Ricky Craven and Elliott at the front of the field before Marlin prevailed, giving Dodge the first win in its return season to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series after more than two decades away from the sport.
And like his spectacular run to the front from a last-place starting spot at Texas - in which he passed a remarkable 61 cars during the afternoon - Blaney needed only to be patient with a lightning-fast race-car as he knifed his way through the field while the Amoco/Siemens crew carefully watched the threatening skies and plotted their pit strategy around the approaching storms.
"We kind of did all the right stuff to get to the front," said Blaney. "We were ninth or 10th and took two tires and got up to fourth. We backed up a little bit. I got too tight on those two tires. I wish we could have made a pit stop and kept on racing. We would have gotten our car better, but from where we started, that's not bad here. It's hard to make up ground here, and that was a pretty good day.
"We were coming the whole time. During that red flag, I think some guys had pitted a little earlier than us, so they had to pit. I think we restarted 11th or 12th. We just kept moving forward all day. I wish it had been me in victory lane (with the first Dodge win), but Sterling deserved it. He's had the best Dodge all year." Matt Kenseth and Johnny Benson, who passed Blaney on the next-to-last green-flag lap before rains finished the race, completed the top-five ahead of Blaney while BDR teammate Burton ran out of gas on a mid-race pit-stop and was penalized for an error by an over-the-wall crew member, finishing three laps down in 33rd. Jeff Gordon never threatened during the day finishing seventh behind Blaney, but padded his lead in the WC point standings to 293 points over second-place Ricky Rudd, who finished next-to-last after engine failure on Lap 120.
With his fourth top-ten finish of the season, Blaney moved into 25th-place in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings, only 186 behind BDR teammate Burton in 18th entering this weekend's race at Bristol. Car owner Davis felt Blaney's third complete "back-to-front" charge through the field was further validation of his progress in his second Winston Cup Series season, arguably an often erratic performance to date.
"Dave Blaney can do this deal," said Davis. "There's no question about it. I've felt that from the beginning. I do believe that Bill Davis Racing has let Dave Blaney down. He's run so well so often this season to not have more to show for it.
"They dominated at Atlanta this spring but made a mistake in the pits that cost them a win. He had a top-five going at Pocono last month until we gambled and ran him out of gas on the last lap. We got him a lap down with a loose spark-plug wire, then he drove like crazy to make that lap back up and drove right back to the front again. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Our challenge is to get a better team behind him, get better people and get them working more together as a team.
"That's the thing the Caterpillar team has. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They've been together a long time and they feel each other. They know what's going on and that's the chemistry it takes.
"With all the changes we've made and as hard as the 93 works at it, we've gotten stronger and stronger in certain areas. Maybe the right people are there now and they just need more time together to gel. I don't think there's any doubts in the minds of those who really know what's going in the Winston Cup garage that Dave Blaney can drive these cars. "Dave can be aggressive. He was coming to the front at Michigan. But he also gives people plenty of room and he's a polite and smart racer. I think he probably thinks he's still earning the respect of the other guys in this series, but I think he's already got their respect.
"The other drivers respect that Dave Blaney is a championship driver from the World of Outlaws series. He won a lot of races in a really tough series on an entirely different surface from where we race stock cars. He stepped in and did a great job in the Busch cars, and he's done the same things in the Winston Cup Series. I think he's earned their respect and I think he's ready to race with them. I think he could be a lot meaner in a race car. It's hard for him because he's too nice a guy.
"But with the gains we're making with the Dodge and the experience he and that team have, I think he'll really have a strong finish to this season if they can just eliminate some of the mistakes that have been hurting them off the track.
"I was hoping Dave could get his first top five finish, but it'll come soon. Blaney drove the wheels off the car (at Michigan). It was a great day for them to start that far back. Dave Blaney deserves a sponsor and deserves to get to race in this series. It's great that Dodge won today. Certainly those guys deserve to be the first Dodge to win. They've set the standard all year. Sterling Marlin deserved to win that race."
NOTE: in a special one-race arrangement, Dave Blaney will feature primary sponsorship from Mac Tools as well as a special paint scheme on his #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge during the Bristol race weekend. The colorful one-race-only paint scheme will also be available for a limited time in die-cast form at traditional NASCAR retail outlets.