HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 18, 2007) -- Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team traveled to Homestead-Miami Speedway hoping to have enough success at the track to protect their position in the top 35 in owners' points. Securing that spot meant ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 18, 2007) -- Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team traveled to Homestead-Miami Speedway hoping to have enough success at the track to protect their position in the top 35 in owners' points. Securing that spot meant finishing 34th or better, and the Cat Racing team did far more than that when all was said and done. After posting a 12th-place finish in the Ford 400, the team moved into 34th place in the standings and guaranteed itself a starting spot in the first five races of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
After qualifying in the 23rd position Friday afternoon, Blaney was voted the Fan's Choice for the Driver2Crew chatter on Sirius Radio for the second time in the past three weeks. It gave Blaniacs and Caterpillar Racing fans alike the opportunity to listen to the No. 22 team's in-car communications on Sirius Satellite Radio during the event. Blaney beat out both veteran Ricky Rudd, who is retiring from the NEXTEL Cup circuit, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was making his final start in his No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc., ride, for the honor. Soon after the green flag waved, Sirius listeners heard Blaney communicate to crew chief Tommy Baldwin that the handling of the Caterpillar Camry was loose off the corners. Blaney was making his way to his pit stall for the first pit stop of the day when the caution flag waved on lap 51. Quick thinking by Baldwin and spotter Mike Brown saved the team from going one lap down, as Blaney continued down pit road without stopping in his stall. Several laps later, the No. 22 machine made another trip down pit road and the Cat crew changed all four tires, filled the tank with fuel and made a wedge adjustment to the car. Blaney returned to the track to take the green flag in 12th place.
Blaney reported to the team that the car was still loose, but he began his drive toward the front of the field and broke into the top 10 on lap 73. Baldwin called for fresh right side tires only during a lap 79 yellow-flag stop, which helped the Cat Camry move into the top five for a lap 82 restart. Though Blaney fell several spots in the ensuing laps while still bothered by a loose racecar, by lap 113 he was among the fastest cars on the track. Blaney led lap 132 before ducking into the pits for a routine stop on lap 133.
As the sun set on Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2007 season, Blaney began to communicate to the crew that the car's handling was starting to get tight. Baldwin called for four tires, fuel and additional chassis adjustments during a lap 195 pit stop and, though the car remained in the tight side, the veteran driver was able keep his Cat Camry inside the top 10 until the last several laps of the event when the car became very tight. Though he lost several positions in the closing laps, Blaney was able to bring the Caterpillar Racing Toyota home in a very respectable 12th place in the season-ending event. It was the team's best finish since the October event at Lowe's Motor Speedway (Concord, N.C.) and the fourth top-15 finish of Blaney's career at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Thanks in part to its 12th-place effort in the finale, the Caterpillar Racing team earned a guaranteed spot in the first five races of the 2008 season. The crew will take a couple of days to rest and recuperate from the grueling Cup Series schedule before heading back to the shop to get ready for off-season testing.