Pit Road Penalties Relegate Blaney to a 30th-place Finish at Pocono
Spoiled good run for the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet
LONG POND, PA. (August 8, 2011) – Dave Blaney drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet to the 21st starting spot and Tommy Baldwin Racing’s (TBR) best start of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season. Two pit road speeding penalties during the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 marred Blaney one lap down early in the 200-lap event. Cautions did not fall well for the TBR team, and Blaney finished 30th, two laps down at Pocono Raceway.
Blaney posted the 19th and 40th fastest times in the first and last practice sessions, respectively. He wheeled the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet to the 21st starting spot with a lap of 52.845 seconds.
The Hartford, Ohio native took the green flag for the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 from the 21st position and fell back to 29th by lap seven. He radioed to the TBR crew that the balance of his Golden Corral Chevrolet was not terrible and that it just had a lack of grip, mainly in turn one.
When the first caution flag flew on lap 14 for a spin in turn three, Blaney explained to the crew that the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet bounced going into turn one. He continued that the car was tight and did not have any turn in the center of the corner of turn one. Crew Chief Philippe Lopez made the call to make an air pressure and wedge adjustment to help the handling of the Chevrolet.
The Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted 28th on lap 17 and quickly worked up to 24th before a caution was called on lap 21 for an accident in turn three. The team elected to stay out and backup spotter and TBR owner Tommy Baldwin worked with Blaney to find the best spot on the track to shift. Blaney restarted 20th on lap 23 and worked up to 17th before falling back to 20th. The Buckeye Bullet radioed that he only had trouble turning in turn one and still needed help in the center of the turn. He continued that all of the other turns were good.
Green flag pit stops began, and Blaney drove to the second position before the team elected to pit on lap 41 for four tires and adjustments. Unfortunately, the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet was caught speeding exiting pit road and had to serve a pass-through penalty. Blaney drove through pit road on lap 43 and was caught for speeding on the exit again. This time he had to stop in the pit box before returning to the track on lap 46. Now marred one lap down, the Golden Corral Chevrolet sat in 34th.
By lap 60, the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet was still struggling in turn one. Blaney radioed that the car was really tight and slamming the racetrack in turn one. Blaney made another green-flag pit stop on lap 68 for four tires, fuel and big wedge adjustment. He drove back on the track in the 33rd spot, one lap down. The adjustments made the car a little loose but better in turn one. Green-flag pit stops began once again, and the TBR team stayed out as long as they could, hoping for a caution so the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet could get its lap back. The team was forced to make a green-flag pit stop on lap 96 and pit for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
Five laps later, the yellow flag flew for debris. Lopez radioed to his driver that the lap times are decent even though they are off-sync on their tires. He decided to have Blaney stay out during the caution period, and the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted 33rd, one lap down. Another caution was called on lap 124 for rain. Blaney told the crew that the Chevrolet was about the same and still struggling in turn one. NASCAR then displayed the red flag for over an hour and 40 minutes for rain showers.
Anticipating the opportunity to get a lap back, the TBR team hoped racing would resume during the red flag. When NASCAR waved the yellow flag, most of the field pit. Since they waited to pit the last stop, the TBR team had a few more laps of fuel than the rest of the field. The team hoped to stay out during the caution period and pit on the first green flag lap in order to get their lap back. Unfortunately, the track was not ready to resume racing, and NASCAR had to extend the caution period. Unable to make the restart on fuel, Blaney had to pit, erasing the team’s strategy to get back on the lead lap. On lap 130, he drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.
During the next green flag run, Blaney stayed one lap down in the 32nd position and held onto the lucky dog position until the leader began to put lead lap cars a lap down. The team made a green-flag pit stop on lap 153 for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Blaney was very happy with the adjustments, although he was a little free in turns one and three. He made another green-flag pit stop on lap 175 for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. The stop put the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet one more lap down. Following suit with the day, the yellow flag waved just six laps later for an incident in turn one.
The team took the opportunity for their last pit stop of the 500-mile event. Blaney drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet down pit road for a four-tire stop. He restarted 30th, two laps down and held the position for the last 16 laps of the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.
The 30th-place finish allowed the No. 36 team to hold onto the 32nd position in NSCS Owner Points, 70 points outside of 31st place. The team is seven points ahead of the No. 32 in 33rd and 55 points inside the top-35. Blaney also held onto the 31st position in NSCS Driver Points. He is 12 points ahead of Casey Mears in 32nd and 76 points behind David Gilliland in 30th.
“The car was pretty good all weekend,” explained Blaney. “We qualified 21st and should have been around there during the race. The two speeding penalties put us down, and it just never worked out for us to get a lap back. There was one time that we had the chance to get it back, but the cautions didn’t fall in our favor.”
“This weekend was a good improvement for our team and a huge improvement from the last Pocono race,” Blaney continued. “We brought the same car, but the motor was better and the team worked on the setup of the car. Also, bringing Philippe on board has really helped our performance.”