Dave Blaney Recovers from Early Incident to Finish 23rd at Martinsville
RIDEGWAY, VA. (October 31, 2011) – Dave Blaney recovered from an early race incident to finish 23rd in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 this weekend. The field started by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Owner Points, which gave the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet the 32nd-place starting spot. Blaney quickly drove into the top-20 but was spun on lap 29. The spin resulted in a flat tire, which caused damage to the front, left suspension of the Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) Chevrolet. Blaney held on and finished 23rd in the 500-lap event at Martinsville Speedway.
Rain cancelled all activity on Friday and allowed the NSCS to get on track for a one-hour practice session on Saturday. Blaney posted the 37th-fastest time in the short practice session as the TBR team diligently worked to convert the speedway car to a short-track setup. Blaney ran a speedway chassis because the short-track chassis was damaged in a testing session at Phoenix International Raceway.
Due to rain cancelling qualifying and most of practice, the field for the TUMS Fast Relief 500 was set by NSCS Owner Points, giving the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet the 32nd starting spot. By the first caution on lap nine for a six-car accident in turn one, Blaney worked up to the 28th position. Crew Chief Philippe Lopez decided to stay out during the caution, as there were not enough laps for Blaney to get a good feel for the handling of the TBR Chevrolet.
The Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted 21st, and Blaney drove into the 19th position before he was spun in turn three on lap 29. The spin caused a left, front flat tire. The Hartford, Ohio native drove to pit road to change tires. The team changed left-side tires on lap 31 but returned to the track to stay on the lead lap. On lap 32, the Golden Corral crew changed right-side tires and added fuel.
Blaney restarted 37th on lap 36 and drove into 29th before an incident in front of him brought out the yellow flag on lap 48. He ran over the curb avoiding the incident, so the Golden Corral team looked at the tires when the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet drove by during caution laps. All the tires looked good, so Blaney stayed out on the track. He restarted in the 23rd position on lap 52 and raced in the top-32 until the fourth caution on lap 66 for a two-car accident in turn two. Blaney radioed that the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet was too loose and lost a lot of grip.
The TBR team made a four-tire pit stop and an air pressure adjustment during the caution period. Blaney restarted 34th and radioed that the car felt like something was broken in the front, left suspension. Despite feeling like something was wrong, Blaney was still running good lap times, so when a caution was called on lap 87, Lopez elected to keep the No. 36 on the track. On lap 96, the Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted in the 16th position but fell back quickly. Blaney radioed that he thought the sway bar broke, making the car’s handling go away.
A two-car incident in turn four brought out a caution on lap 106 and allowed the team to adjust the handling of the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. During the stop, the crew found a broken arm in the left, front but did not have enough time to fix the issue. The field went back to green-flag racing on lap 112 with Blaney in the 27th position. Still having issues driving the car with a broken arm, he went a lap down to the leader on lap 143 while in the 31st spot.
On lap 151, an incident in turn three brought out another caution. The team made a four-tire pit stop, but the caution period was not long enough to fix the arm. Blaney restarted 29th, one lap down. During the run, the No. 36 made fast lap times when it ran alone on the track. Since the lap times held up, the team waited to fix the arm in order to hold onto their position and not lose any more laps.
The team continued to make adjustments to the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet during the next three cautions on laps 198, 259, 362 and 409. Blaney continued to post decent lap times but fell four laps down by the 13th caution on lap 416. Since the team pit four laps earlier, Lopez decided to stay out to get a lap back with the wave around. The last 100 laps of the 500-lap event were caution filled. Blaney made his last pit stop during the caution on lap 459 while in the 28th position, three laps down. He avoided the plethora of incidents on the track and brought home a 23rd-place finish.
The finish allowed Blaney and the No. 36 team to hold onto the 32nd spot in both NSCS Driver and Owner Points. The team is now six points ahead of the No. 13, 43 points behind the No. 34 in the 31st position, and locked into the top-35 by 64 points. Blaney is ahead of Andy Lally by 83 points and trailing Casey Mears in 31st by 20 points.
“The car was really good before we spun early in the race,” explained Blaney. “I was really impressed with how good it was because we were not that great in practice. The guys worked hard making a lot of changes from practice. I think we would have had a solid day if we didn’t spin. The spin gave us a flat, and while getting to pit road, the arm broke in the left front. The broken part made us really loose, but we managed to stay out of trouble the rest of the race and get a solid finish.”