(No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Blaney, a 36-year-old driver from Hartford, Ohio, tested at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 10 and 11. He comments on the test, the days that followed, Sunday's race and his outlook for the remainder of the season.
"The first day we ran, the track was really, really slippery. We put stickers on and you couldn't run within two seconds of what you should have for about five laps. We fought that a little bit. We had to make some big changes to the cars to get them hooked up. I think the track kept getting better and better all day Monday. We did mostly qualifying runs on the first day and got going better. I just feel like the track is going to change a bunch.
"It changed on Monday and was getting better on Tuesday morning. We ran just a few laps on Tuesday morning and then quit and drove home. I don't know how much the test is going help us when we go back. I'm afraid the track is going to change a bunch. We know what to look for when we get there, and we know what to do with the car if the track is real slick and go from there. I wish we could have got in the second day and worked on some race stuff. We did two 15-lap race runs on the second day, but I think we've got a good baseline to work from. We'll work on race runs on Thursday and see if we can get going good. We've been weak lately on qualifying, so maybe we should focus on that.
"The track is real similar to Kentucky. It's got about the same bank as Kentucky and maybe a little less bank than Chicago. It might not be quite as wide as Chicago in a few places, but that's hard to tell until you get guys racing on it and see how much you actually use the race track. The second groove might come in a little faster if the bottom groove gets slower. It could be the same as Chicago. The second groove could be really slippery most of the weekend, or it might come in pretty quick. It just depends on the weather and how slick the track is. The first race on it, it could be one lane for awhile, but it's unbelievably smooth. It hasn't gone through a winter yet. They got it paved in the spring.
"We raced pretty good at Chicago. We've gone OK on that type of track. Everybody will get a chance to practice on Thursday, but I think it helped us being there that day and a half. The best teams are going to shine no matter what. The guys that run the best week in and week out and have the most experience and can pull on all that experience and will catch on to the track quick.
"You look back at it, and I've thrown away a couple of chances for good runs. We had mechanical things throw away a couple of chances for us. What are you going to do? At least those times the car was running well enough to get a top five. We've got to show flashes of that before we can get it consistently. We can see flashes, so that's a good sign.
"I'm sure I'll never forget that day (Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001). Nobody ever will. The guys were at the race track, and I had just walked down to the lobby at the motel and looked at the TV. They were showing the first tower had been hit. The pilot and I were talking. We didn't know what had happened. We figured a small plane had hit it by mistake. We didn't know any different. Right when we got to the race track, the second one hit and we knew what was going on. It stopped everybody in their tracks. Nobody wanted to go out on the race track Tuesday morning. Most of the guys didn't go out. We went out and ran some, but you just weren't into it.
"You had a hard time working on the car. Everybody wanted to talk to their family or just talk to somebody. Nobody wanted to pay much attention to the race car. We had eight people there. We rented a 12-passenger van and drove it 15 or 16 hours home. It wasn't fun, but it was the best option. They gave me the graveyard shift, from about 10 p.m. to 3 in the morning. We left about 2 o'clock eastern time, and we got back at five or six in the morning, so it was a long night in the van. We stopped for gas and food once or twice, and that was about it. We listened to the radio to keep up with what was going on. The President came on about 7:30, and we got to hear him. I've had lots of long trips like that, but I've been spoiled lately. I haven't had to make 'em. It wasn't too bad.
"It makes you mad that somebody can come in and change your way of life. You don't want to see that happen. We're pretty spoiled with the great lives we have, and I hate to see anything happen to it.
"It felt good to get back to racing at Dover. We just need to run good every day the rest of the season. Lately we've been struggling in qualifying, but we race pretty well. We just need to get both of them going well here and rattle off some top fives and be in contention. That's what we've been after all year. It just seems to be hit and miss. It seems like when we got the new nose for the Dodges that we're racing better with it, but we're qualifying worse with it. We just haven't hit on something, but we will.
"I'm ready to go every week. I look back at the tracks where we've run good and learned a lot, and I'm ready to go back to them. I'm looking forward to Atlanta, but I wasn't mad about the way things worked out there in March. We had a good car, led some laps and could have won the race, but we didn't. I've been more mad about it since when I figured out how much it cost me by not winning, but it's no big deal. We've got another chance in a few weeks.
"We're still looking and hunting for a new sponsor for next season. I think we've got some good stuff working, but it'll be a week or two before we know. I'm confident we can work things out."
(Crew chief No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Intrepid R/T)
"Kansas Speedway is a beautiful facility. It's right off the interstate. There's plenty of room and plenty of parking. It's a first-class facility. When they planned it, they knew what they were doing.
"We worked on qualifying stuff the first day of the test. It wasn't that hot, but on stickers (new tires) the car was real loose. The more rubber that got down on the track, the better it got. I think the track will still change a lot with even more rubber on it. The second day we were going to work on race mode, and that was Tuesday (Sept. 11, day of terrorist attack). We made a couple of runs. They came around with the air traffic situation. They said if there was a wreck the rescue helicopter couldn't come out. We cut it short and didn't get all our race run stuff finished.
"We piled in a rental van and drove straight home for about 15 hours. I'm glad we did because we thought about spending the night and maybe being able to fly home the next morning. Obviously, it was Friday of that week before they finally released the small planes.
"From what we saw the first day, we decided we were going to scuff everything we had. As the track got better and more rubber down, it wasn't near as bad. We go in on Thursday, so we're going to work on race setup. On Friday, we'll evaluate the track then. There'll be more rubber down, and we'll figure out what to do tire-wise for qualifying.
"The track is a lot like Chicago and a lot like Kentucky. We've been to Kentucky and tested. It's probably more similar to Kentucky than Chicago, but it's still a lot like Chicago. It could be a good race. Watch the races at Kentucky, and they're really competitive, a lot of passing. This track has the potential. We'll just have to wait until we get out there and start racing to see if we can race two grooves. Chicago was pretty much a one-groove track until the end of the race. They finally got enough rubber down to race a little bit. Hopefully, Kansas will be a two-groove track. You hate to have a fast car and not be able to pass anybody. You like to go places where you can pass.
"We started in the back of the field in Chicago because we wrecked in practice. We had to go to the back when the race started and made it up. We finished 12th and had a really fast car. It just took all day long to get around people. If it had been a little more friendly to pass, I think we would have done a whole lot better.
"We were in Kansas that morning (Sept. 11) getting ready to go test. You get the phone call that a plane has hit the World Trade Center. You immediately think it's a small plane hitting it and falling off. Then you hear it's a little worse, and they get the TVs going in the truck and you're sitting there watching it. It's funny. The TV was working in our truck, but it wasn't real clear. We went over to the media center, and they had two different TVs on two different news channels and it's like everybody just migrated there and was staring at it. Everybody just forgot about testing. You go there with a purpose and you've got all these big plans and suddenly you realize how small those plans really are. In some way or other, that tragedy touched everyone."
(Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts with drivers
Ward Burton and Dave Blaney)
"We need to go on with our lives and get back to normal. (Sept. 11) is a day you'll never forget. You'll always remember it. I wasn't at the test in Kansas City. I got stuck at home in Batesville, Ark., and that wasn't a bad thing for me. That day will be etched in my mind forever, just like the day John Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated. That's our challenge, to get back to normal and get our country back on track and then retaliate.
"The economy was already a little edgy and things were already a little reserved as it was. This will surely dampen things for the next few weeks, but we're confident we'll be OK.
"We've got confidence that we'll come up with a sponsor for the 93 team and go forward. We've been through this many times in the past 12 years, and we've always been able to put together a better sponsorship than what we had and go forward. I think Dave Blaney's got confidence that that will happen. I haven't heard of anybody that's got any doubts so far.
"Dave's team has run fast at so many places this season. They've really had some good race cars. They just don't need luck -- good or bad. They just need to run the race. I think Atlanta will be good for the 93 team. They certainly dominated the race in the spring. Kansas should be good. That's his kind of race track. Charlotte should be good. They ran well at Homestead last year. They've got some places to shine coming up.
"I think the Dodge deal has gone great this year. I think Dodge should be real proud of what they've accomplished. I think the teams ought to feel proud about what they've accomplished. To win poles and races and lead laps and have a guy in the top 10 in points (Sterling Marlin) all season, I think it's a great first year for Dodge. Dodge did an incredible job of putting the program together and supporting it all year long.
"We're not looking at points right now. We're just looking to get both teams back on track. We had some fast cars the first half of the year and had some terrible luck that got us down in points. We had a couple of races we should have won. The 93 certainly should have won Atlanta. We could have had a heck of a year, but it didn't work out. We're just working with the cars now, trying to get them better. We're working with the engines and trying to understand them better and take off next year and run where we need to.
"I know we've got to run New Hampshire after Thanksgiving, and that's a lot to ask of these guys to miss one of our most cherished holidays with their families after they've been through 20 straight races and the longest schedule in professional sports. At the same time, what else could we do? We didn't need to go there and race (on Sept. 16). If that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do. We've heard a lot that we need a little leeway in the schedule. I've said for years that we'd probably be better off if we just raced year-round and had more time off during the season. I'd like to have weekends off every once in awhile."