Kids Eat Free at Golden Corral on Monday with Dave Blaney’s Third-place Finish at Talladega
No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet scored team’s best finish

Dave Blaney, Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
Dave Blaney, Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (October 24, 2011) – Dave Blaney drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet from the 41st position to a third-place finish in the Good Sam Club 500 by teaming up with Brad Keselowski for the 188-lap event at Talladega Superspeedway. Due to the top-10 finish, kids will have the opportunity to eat free at Golden Corral locations on Monday, October 23rd, which happens to be Blaney’s 49th birthday. The finish is Tommy Baldwin Racing’s (TBR) best finish since the team’s inception in 2009 and tied Blaney’s best career finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS).

On Friday, Blaney utilized the first practice session to work with Keselowski on the two-car draft. During the session, he posted the 20th-fastest time in first practice and felt comfortable with the pairing. While practicing for qualifying in final practice, the Hartford, Ohio native posted the 34th-quickest time. In qualifying, he drove to the 43rd-fastest time and earned the 41st starting spot for the Good Sam Club 500.

Blaney started from the 41st position in the 188-lap event at Talladega Superspeedway. He quickly worked his way up to the 29th position by lap four and paired up with Keselowski pushing the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. The twosome tested out the draft while watching water temperatures for Keselowski’s No. 2 machine. As the Penske driver’s temperatures would rise, the two strategized the best technique to cool down the No. 2 car. The tandem raced in the top-30 until the first caution called for debris on lap 26. During the caution, the Golden Corral team changed four tires and filled the Chevrolet with fuel.

The No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted 32nd on lap 28 and quickly hooked back up with Keselowski. Two laps later, the pair drove into the top-15 but then moved back into the top-25 to keep the engines cool and in tact for the finish. On lap 54, Blaney radioed that the car was a little loose while being pushed and requested an air pressure adjustment for the next pit stop. Trying another run to the front on lap 65, Blaney and Keselowski drove from the 23rd position to ninth when the yellow flag waved for debris on lap 69.

Blaney restarted 16th on lap 73 and worked back up to ninth when an accident on the frontstretch brought out the caution on lap 81. The TBR team pit for four tires and fuel and then topped off the fuel tank at the one-to-go signal for the restart. The No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted 27th on lap 86. The pair worked up to the 16th spot before falling back to cool down the No. 2 car’s engine.

A six-car incident brought out the yellow flag on lap 105, and the TBR team made another four-tire pit stop. The field went back to green-flag racing on lap 110 with Blaney in the 14th spot. He drove up to fifth on lap 118 with Keselowski pushing the No. 36. By lap 122, NASCAR Officials called a caution for debris with Blaney in the 10th position. During the caution period, the Golden Corral pit crew made a two-tire pit stop. Blaney restarted 15th on lap 126. Kasey Kahne spun on the frontstretch four laps later and brought out the sixth caution of the Good Sam Club 500.

The Golden Corral team made a fuel-only pit stop during the caution period, and Blaney restarted in 16th-place. The two-some of Blaney and Keselowski stayed back from the pack for most of the run but also prepared to make a charge near the end of the 188-lap race. On lap 156, the tandem tested out a drive to the front and wheeled into the top-five by lap 161. Then, the yellow flag flew for an accident in turn three on lap 164, and the TBR team made another fuel-only pit stop.

The green flag dropped for the lap 167 restart with Blaney in the fifth position. Blaney drove to the lead on lap 168 but dropped back to fifth by the next lap. Blaney and Keselowski stayed in the top-10 until a three-car incident in turn two on lap 175 brought out another yellow flag. Blaney restarted 18th on lap 178 with Keselowski in tow as they drove into turn one. The twosome drove into the top-10 on the next lap but then fell to 20th by lap 180. They maneuvered up to the top-15 by the final caution on lap 182, which was called for a multi-car incident in turn two.

Lined up side-by-side, Blaney and Keselowski restarted in the 14th and 15th positions for an attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. The pair discussed strategy during the five-lap caution period, and when the green flag dropped, the duo hooked up nose to tail quickly and began a trek through the field. Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton got a run on the field as the top-15 ran three and four wide. The No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet and the No. 2 machine finessed their way through the field. At the green, the two worked the bottom of the track, then up through the middle on the backstretch and into the top-10. Blaney squeezed in three-wide in the middle as Keselowski skillfully maneuvered through on the bumper of the Golden Corral Chevrolet. The tandem got a big run and drove up to the outside line. They shot passed the Red Bull Racing teammates to take the third and fourth spot by the exit of the fourth turn on the final lap. Bowyer and Burton had a significant lead which Blaney and Keselowski could not catch before the checkered flag dropped. Blaney finished in the third position with Keselowski in fourth-place.

The top-three finish made the “Racing for America’s Families” a reality. Monday, October 24th, kids will have the opportunity to eat free at Golden Corral locations with an adult purchase by bringing a printout or newspaper clipping of the finishing order to a local restaurant. Kids will be able to taste the Chocolate Wonderfall and celebrate Blaney’s 49th birthday with a free meal.

Blaney captured the O'Reilly Auto Parts Position Improvement Award for the most spots improved from the starting position. Starting 41st, he improved by 38 positions in the 500-mile event. The third-place finish tied Blaney’s best career-finish, which he also posted at Talladega Superspeedway in 2007. This also marked TBR’s best team-finish since the team’s inception in 2009 and the team’s first top-five finish in 87 starts.

The finish kept the TBR No. 36 team in the 32nd position in NSCS Owner Points and increased the team’s lead over 33rd and 35th. The team is 17 points ahead of the No. 13 in 33rd and locked into the top-35 by 61 points. They now trail the 31st position by 53 points. Blaney held onto the 32nd spot in the NSCS Driver Points and narrowed Casey Mears’ lead in 30th to nine points. He is now 62 points ahead of Andy Lally in 33rd.

“It was a great run,” Blaney explained. “Obviously, we have to thank Brad Keselowski. He stayed with us all day long, every lap. When you get somebody committed to you no matter what, it makes it a lot easier. Then, it's just timing at the end. It worked out pretty well. We were in the right place at the right time, squeezed through a couple holes and there you are, but still a solid day. I don't really know how we got up there at the end. I started 14th and Brad was 15th on the green-white-checkered. I didn't see what happened to the top-five in the first corner, but it was odd to see Bowyer and Burton get that far away that quick. That is obviously what made it a different kind of race.”

“We had a really solid day going here in the spring, too,” continued Blaney. “We didn't quite make it to the end. It was a really fun day for Tommy Baldwin Racing, Golden Corral. This is huge for our race team. It's a tiny little team. This racecar we've got, it was a Bill Davis car 2007, 2008. It's not a killer. It's a big, big accomplishment for us to come out. But, again, just really happy for Golden Corral. The spring race here was their second race, they just started up with us. They stayed with us all year and let us race more than we could without them. It just legitimizes Tommy Baldwin's team more and more.”