DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Blaney, a 36-year-old driver from Hartford, Ohio, will start fourth in Sunday's Kmart 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The 1995 World of Outlaws Champion made his Winston Cup debut in 1999 at Michigan International Speedway. He'll make his 53rd career Cup start on Sunday.
"We qualified around 20th here in 1999 and ran about there all day. We ran out of gas on the last lap and ended up 33rd. We just kind of ran in the middle of the pack all day. We didn't have any problems until we ran out of gas. I think that was the day it went without any cautions. We ran along all day with some good cars, and for our first shot, we were pretty happy with the way it went. It was a good way to get started.
"Sunday will be my fourth Cup race here. I've run a couple of ARCA races here and a few Busch races. I've run here more than most places. We sat on the pole in a Busch race here and finished behind Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. We ran pretty good in that race. We led a little. I really like this track. If you can get the car running good in race mode, there's plenty of room to run. You've just got to find out where your car likes to run.
"The first set of tires everybody ran through yesterday, we were seventh or eighth quickest. On the second set of tires, everybody picked up and the fenders on our car hit the tires pretty hard, so we kind of messed up our last run. We didn't really get a good run on the second set of stickers. We felt we could run quite a bit faster than we did in practice, but our qualifying run kind of surprised me a little bit. I didn't think we could pick up that much. It was pretty close to a perfect lap until I got around to three and four and I lost the car just a little bit, just enough to cost me what we needed to be in the front, but we were real tickled with it anyway.
"I live about four hours from here. I guess this is the closest track for me. It's straight east about four hours on the east side of Ohio. I've probably been here and Ohio more than anywhere else. The Busch Series had a weekend off in '99, and that's why I ran my first Cup race here, but this is a good track. It's big and wide and there's lots of room to race. Ward (teammate Burton) and those guys have run well here in the past. We felt like we could be fairly competitive here, too.
"Our two teams still work well together. That hasn't changed. It just seems that this year there hadn't been hardly any weeks when we've both run good. He's run good, and there's been some weeks that we've run good, but we never run good at the same time. I really don't know why. Most of the time we have setups that are fairly close. We drive a little different and sometimes we like different things, but nine times out of 10 we're fairly close.
"This is our Las Vegas car. We hurt the car that ran so well for us at Atlanta, but I think we're going to have it ready to go next week at Pocono.
"We're getting better every week. The new tires is as hard to learn as anything else. A few of the Dodge guys are in contention every week. We're just trying to make everything better every week. We're slowly chipping away at it.
"I think we can be as good here as we were earlier this season at Atlanta. It's just a matter of getting your car handling good where it stays good on the long runs. It's going to be mostly green-flag racing here, most likely. You've just got to stay good on the long haul or you won't keep up. We don't really have any different plans for fuel strategy. We'll just play around with the gear and make sure we can go the 50 laps we need to go. Other than that, you can't do much about it. You can fudge a little bit with the gear, but other than that... If you've got to give up a little bit of power with the carburetor to make it on fuel, that's what you do. I don't know about a two-tire pit stop. It depends on how good the tires hold on, but I'd wouldn't think you could get away with that on a full gas run. We'll see.
"Bill Davis (car owner, recently in hospital with kidney stones) is fine. He's just resting. The last time I talked to him right before we came up here, he couldn't do too much. It's got him wore out, and he's just got to lay around and rest.
"If I'm in North Carolina, I'm in the shop most every day. Maybe it's not really with anything to do. Maybe it's just going over things or just being with the guys or whatever. I'm around most all the time. I grew up building my own cars, doing whatever it took to race. That's always something I've liked doing. Not that I was made to do it, I just liked to do it and still do. We've got some good guys in the shop, and they don't leave me a whole lot to do now.
"I'm not racing anywhere tonight. I was tempted to go to that Eldora Million race. I'd love to see that, but I'll probably just stay here. We need to get our first top five Sunday. That's what we're shooting for. We got close earlier this year at Texas (career-best sixth-place Cup finish). A top 10 would be a good day, but we'd really like to get our first top five."