Blaney Finishes 31st at the Brickyard; Overcomes early flat tire to hold onto 32nd in owner points
Dave Blaney piloted the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet from the 33rd starting spot this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He battled a lap 27 flat tire, and the Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) team worked to fix the damage and finish 31st in the Brickyard 400. The team held onto the 32nd position in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Owner Points.
The Big Red team worked on the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet right off the truck. Blaney posted the 41st-fastest time in first practice and the 46th-quickest time in the second and third practice sessions. Blaney picked up over a second in his qualifying run and posted the 33rd-fastest time of 50.021 seconds.
Blaney took the green flag of the Brickyard 400 presented by Golden Corral on ESPN from the 33rd position. He worked up to 31st before radioing on lap 11 that the Big Red Chevrolet was tightening up. He continued that the car was really good at the beginning but quickly grew tighter and it hurt him in the corner.
Crew Chief Phillipe Lopez called for Blaney to drive down pit road for the first pit stop of the day on lap 27. As he came in for the green-flag stop, the front right tire blew. Blaney nursed the Chevrolet to the pit stall, and the Big Red team changed four tires, made a trackbar adjustment and put Barebond over the right-front damage. After inspecting the tires, the team found that the wear was good and there was a flat spot on the tire.
Blaney continued to run 32nd until the first caution flag waved on lap 35 for debris. The team put on four scuff tires and put a rubber in the right rear of the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet, while they worked on the damage with more Barebond. Blaney returned to pit road on the next lap to allow the Big Red team to continue to fix the damage. Once he got back out on track, the Hartford, Ohio native radioed that the car had a big shake and was concerned that the lugnuts were not all tight. Still under yellow flag conditions, the team chose to change four tires again to try to fix the problem. Lopez radioed that because of the quick turnaround that air pressure on the new set of tires was not exact.
Once the field restarted, Blaney worked up to 27th before the second yellow flag flew for an incident in turn three. The Big Red team utilized this caution flag to stay out and lead a lap. After leading lap 52, Blaney drove down pit road for a four-tire pit stop. The team did not make any adjustments, as the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet’s lap times were good. The field went back to green on lap 55 with Blaney in the 32nd position.
Five laps later, Blaney radioed that the car was really good at the beginning of the run but tightened up quickly. Backup spotter and owner Tommy Baldwin and Blaney discussed that the car was handling well in turn one but had a push in turns three and four. The Big Red team utilized a green-flag, four-tire pit stop on lap 83 to make a wedge adjustment to work on the tight condition. By lap 85, Blaney radioed that if the car stayed the way it was they were going to have a good run.
The third caution of the day flew on lap 95 for debris. Blaney pit for four tires but was penalized for speeding exiting pit road so he started on the tail end of the field. Two laps after the green flag waved, he moved from 32nd to 30th position. On lap 103, the Big Red driver radioed that the car initially turned well but really lost the handle. A debris caution on lap 115 allowed the team to make another four-tire pit stop.
Blaney returned to green flag racing on lap 118 in the 31st position. On lap 120, Landon Cassill and David Ragan spun. While trying to avoid the incident, Blaney drove under a spinning Cassill and got a lot of grass on the front grill, which caused the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet to start overheating. The overheating forced the team to pit for fuel, a shock adjustment and to clean the grill. Debating on whether to top-off on the one-to-go lap, the team played it safe and stayed out, opting to pit under green conditions when they knew they would be able to finish the 400-mile race.
Blaney restarted on lap 127 in 19th and came back down pit road with 28 to go. The Big Red team topped off the No. 36 with fuel and cleaned off the grill. By lap 142, Blaney radioed that handling-wise the car was the best it has been all race. With five laps to go, he radioed that the car was a half-click tight in 30th position. The No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet finished in the 31st spot.
The 31st-place finish kept the No. 36 team in the 32nd position in NSCS Owner Points. The team is 66 points out of 31st and 50 points ahead of 36th. Blaney held onto the 31st position in NSCS Driver Points. He is 69 points behind David Gilliland in 30th and seven points ahead of Casey Mears in 32nd.
“Unfortunately, we got damage early from the blown tire," explained Blaney. "We were a bit tight, but it seemed everyone was struggling with that. It seemed like we were loosing ground on the straightaway because of the damage. By the end, the car got a lot better. Sometimes you gamble and it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We decided not to gamble, and it looks like it bit us. We continue to make gains as a team. We’ll go to Pocono and see what we can do there.”
Blaney will return to the track next weekend for the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 and pilot the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet in the second stop at Pocono Raceway this season.
By: tommy baldwin racing