Early Problems Relegate Blaney to a 35th-place Finish in Texas
FORT WORTH, TEXAS (November 7, 2011) – Dave Blaney qualified into the AAA Texas 500 in the No. 35 Big Red Chevrolet this weekend with the 35th-fastest qualifying time. He drove to the 31st position before a flat tire forced him to pit on lap 44. The flat tire caused the sway bar to break off the Chevrolet, and the Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) crew worked in the garage to fix it. Eleven laps later, Blaney returned to the track. Stuck on his own lap for the remainder of the 501-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) event at Texas Motor Speedway, the No. 35 Big Red Chevrolet finished 35th, 18 laps down.
The Big Red team focused solely on qualifying trim runs during the first practice at the 1.5-mile racetrack, since they needed to qualify on time. Blaney posted the 38th-fastest lap. Fairly comfortable with the car’s handling, the team made minimal changes before qualifying. The No. 35 Big Red Chevrolet went out ninth for qualifying, and Blaney posted the 36th-fastest lap, fourth among the go-or-go home cars. During the second and final practice sessions on Saturday, he posted the 35th- and 33rd-fastest times respectively.
The No. 35 Big Red Chevrolet took the green flag for the AAA Texas 500 from the 36th position. Blaney drove to the 31st spot by lap 19 and radioed that the car was loose off the corner and needed to turn better.
As green-flag pit stops began, Blaney radioed that he had a flat tire and drove to pit road. The TBR team changed four tires and sent the No. 35 back out on the track. Just six laps later, Blaney pit again as he felt the same issue. He stopped on pit road, and the crew checked under the car to assess the issue. They decided to bring the car back to the garage to find and fix the problem. As the crew jacked up the car in the garage, they found that the bolt that attaches the sway bar to the car broke. They quickly reattached the sway bar and sent Blaney back on track 11 laps later.
Blaney returned to the track on lap 65 in the 38th position, 14 laps down. By lap 80, he radioed that the Chevrolet was struggling to turn in the center of the corner. Preparing for a pit stop, the Hartford, Ohio native told the Big Red crew that the car was manageable but loose off the corner. NASCAR Officials called a caution on lap 113 for debris, and Crew Chief Mike Shiplett called for the No. 35 to pit for four tires and chassis adjustments.
Staying out of trouble and utilizing the next 218 laps as a test session, Blaney and the Big Red crew worked to better the car’s handling. The team continued to improve the tight center, loose off condition as they made adjustments throughout the race. The No. 35 moved up three spots in the final 200 laps as teammate Geoffrey Bodine was spun and could not finish the race, Joey Logano had an engine failure and Jamie McMurray had mechanical issues. The Big Red Chevrolet finished 35th in the 501-mile event.
Blaney is still 32nd in NSCS Driver Points. He is 77 points ahead of Andy Lally and trailing Casey Mears by 30 points.
“The car wasn’t bad at the end of the race; we were just too many laps down from the sway bar problem,” explained Blaney. “The adjustments the guys made today helped with the handling and that will help in Homestead in a few weeks. Since we were on our own lap, we could throw some significant changes at it and see how it affected the car. Now, we head to Phoenix. We have done pretty well at short tracks this season, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Blaney will have to qualify the No. 35 Golden Corral Chevrolet into the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend.