Event: Daytona 500
Promising Day Ends Early for Tommy Baldwin Racing Blaney and No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet Caught Up in Lap 196 Incident
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (February 20, 2011) -- Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) driver Dave Blaney drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet to a hard-fought 26th-place finish in the Daytona 500 after a lap 196 incident ruined their promising day. The TBR team led laps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Daytona International Speedway before the incident ended the Golden Corral team's day early. The team now sits 26th in NSCS Owner Points.
After a tense Gatorade Duels day, TBR made the Daytona 500 on time to start from the 42nd position. Once the green flag dropped for the 53rd annual Daytona 500, it did not take long for Blaney to work his way through the field. By the first caution on lap five for Kyle Busch's spin, the Hartford, Ohio native drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet to the 27th spot. Crew chief Tommy Baldwin chose to stay out, and Blaney gained five spots on the racetrack.
By the second yellow flag on lap 10, Blaney was in the 24th position and drove down pit road for four tires and fuel. As he turned into the pit stall, Mark Martin in the No. 5 Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 Chevrolet exited their pit boxes. Advice from Baldwin and quick maneuvering by Blaney prevented any damage to the Golden Corral Chevrolet, although costing extra time on pit road. Following the pit stop, Blaney restarted in the 40th position on lap 15. Struggling to find a partner, he drove the No. 36 Chevrolet to the 21st position by lap 18 and held steady in the top-30.
When the yellow flag waved on lap 22 for Harvick's blown engine, the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet drove down pit road for a fuel-only pit stop. Blaney restarted 24th, and by the next caution on lap 33, he worked his way up to the 16th position. Baldwin called the Golden Corral Chevrolet down pit road for a four-tire pit stop to stay in sync with the No. 39 of Ryan Newman, who was working with the team in the previous green-flag run. Blaney restarted on lap 35 in the 21st spot and drove up to 16th one lap later.
Working with the No. 22 of Kurt Busch, Blaney drove the No. 36 into the top-10 by lap 44 and straight to the lead by lap 46. Shortly after, another yellow flag waved for an incident in turn four, and Baldwin called the Buckeye Bullet down pit road for a fuel-only stop. Blaney pulled off pit road in the first spot and restarted on lap 50 from the front row. After taking the lead running into turn one, Blaney fell back as he had issues with the gear popping out as he shifted. Unfortunately without a partner, the TBR Chevrolet fell back to the eighth position by lap 51.
The Golden Corral Chevrolet continued to drop back until the next caution period at lap 56, which allowed the team to make another fuel-only pit stop. The TBR team partnered up with Newman once again when the green flag dropped on lap 60. Although still having a gear issue, the No. 36 and 39 worked together to stay in the top-16 and posted the fastest laps in the field on laps 67 and 68. The pair continued to work together swapping spots to keep their engines cool.
Another yellow flag flew on lap 76 for a spin by Travis Kvapil, with Blaney and Newman still working together in the top-16. The pair chose to pit for fuel-only again, and Blaney restarted from the 10th position. Due to the lineup for the restart, the No. 36 Golden Corral team found another partner in the No. 27 of Paul Menard. The duo raced in the top-16 until lap 85, when Blaney radioed that it was crowded in the middle of the pack and hard to stay together.
Racing in the 17th spot, Blaney and Menard continued to work together, swapping the lead to keep their engines cool. Getting more comfortable with each other, they rode around in the top-20, avoiding trouble. Bad luck struck again for the TBR team when the No. 31 of Jeff Burton lost their engine on lap 94 and caused fellow Richard Childress Racing (RCR) driver Menard to team up with the remaining RCR driver Clint Bowyer. It did not take long for Blaney to find a new drafting partner in Terry Labonte. The two raced in the top-20 working to perfect their drafting until the caution flag waved on lap 106.
Baldwin called Blaney down pit road for service during the caution period. The Golden Corral team changed two tires and added fuel to the No. 36 Chevrolet. Blaney restarted on lap 110 in the 22nd position and drove his way to the 10th spot by the following lap after hooking up with current partner Labonte. Continuing to work together in the top-20, Blaney and Labonte strategically switched positions to keep their engines cool until lap 119 when they lost each other. By the next yellow on lap 123, Blaney was in the 23rd spot, working with Jimmie Johnson.
Blaney drove down pit road for a fuel-only pit stop and restarted in the 20th spot on lap 128. He worked his way up to the 14th position, but he was once again looking for a drafting partner and fell to 24th. On lap 134, Matt Kenseth spun on the frontstretch just in front of the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet, and Blaney maneuvered to avoid any contact. Baldwin took this opportunity to make their eighth pit stop of the day; this time changing four tires and adding fuel. During the stop, Baldwin noticed a little damage to the left front hood and called Blaney back onto pit road to apply Barebond to the area.
The Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted in the 22nd position on lap 142, and Blaney drove to 11th before the yellow flag waved again two laps later. The team elected to stay out and restarted seventh on lap 146. Blaney drove the No. 36 to the fourth position going into turn four but without help dropped back to the 16th position by the time he crossed the start-finish line. The TBR team continued to search for a drafting partner until the next caution period on lap 158 as they raced in the top-25. The TBR crew topped off the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet with fuel before the next restart on lap 162.
When the green flag dropped, Blaney raced his way to the ninth position but fell to 20th when the caution flew for a spin on lap 166. The TBR Chevrolet stayed out and restarted 15th. Teaming up with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Blaney drove up to the third spot until he and Earnhardt were jostled back to 12th. The yellow flag flew on lap 181, and the TBR team stayed on the track.
When the field restarted on lap 185, Blaney found a partner in Menard. The duo raced in the top-15, but Blaney radioed that he was starting to run hot as the pusher. The two swapped positions on lap 193 and prepared to make one last run to the finish. Running 13th, a huge wreck happened in front of the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet in turn four. Unable to slow down with the pack behind him, Blaney drove low to avoid a hit. Unfortunately, he was forced into the grass and received major damage to the front of the racecar. As he drove to pit road, the No. 36 Chevrolet got a flat front-right tire. Blaney nursed the Golden Corral Chevrolet to his pit stall, hoping the team could salvage their day.
The TBR team quickly got to work assessing the damage as they tried to keep the No. 36 on the lead lap. As they began to fix the car, it became evident that the damage was severe, as the Golden Corral Chevrolet was leaking water and oil. With just a few spots to lose, Baldwin decided it was best to not risk getting back on track with a severely wrecked racecar. The team finished 26th in the Daytona 500, as NSCS Rookie Trevor Bayne took the checkered flag. TBR sits 26th in NSCS Owner Points, and Blaney is 24th in NSCS Driver Points.
"I was excited about how the race went," said Blaney. "We were really good at times. We looked like we were in line to have a good finish. It's unfortunate that a good weekend had to end that way. Thanks to Golden Corral for stepping up at the last minute to support us in the 500. We're very excited they came on board and just wish we would have finished in the top-10 for them."
Blaney and the TBR team will return to the track at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Sunday, February 27th at 3 p.m. ET.