BLISS AMONG MANY DRIVERS INVOLVED IN ACCIDENTS AT START OF NEXTEL OPEN Hard tires and slick conditions cause early accidents in All-Star Challenge qualifying race Concord, N.C. (May 21, 2007) -- Once a year, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers...
BLISS AMONG MANY DRIVERS INVOLVED IN ACCIDENTS AT START OF NEXTEL OPEN
Hard tires and slick conditions cause early accidents in All-Star Challenge qualifying race
Concord, N.C. (May 21, 2007) -- Once a year, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers and teams are allowed to compete in a no-holds-barred, non-points sanctioned event that is an adrenaline-packed showdown with a million dollars on the line. The NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway is one of the most exciting events of the season for drivers and fans alike. Mike Bliss and the BAM Racing team were among those laying it on the line this weekend with their eyes on the prize.
Drivers and team owners eligible for the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge include race winners from this season and last along with All-Star Challenge winners and series champions from the past ten years. In addition, the top two finishers in the NEXTEL Open as well as a fan vote recipient advance to the big event.
Bliss was among the competitors in the NEXTEL Open vying for a coveted place in the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. No stranger to the 40-lap shootout, Bliss nearly won the event two years ago starting from the pole and leading the race before being spun by Brian Vickers just yards from the finish line. Unfortunately, he did not advance.
With something to prove, Bliss qualified for the NEXTEL Open in the 16th starting position. Aware that strategy would come into play in order to move to the front of the field, the team knew that the competition caution on lap 20 would be a crucial factor in the outcome of the race.
As the NEXTEL Open got underway, it took less than one lap for the first caution flag to wave. A multi-car melee in turn 2 nearly collected Bliss who emerged from the smoke-filled chaos without a scratch.
"Wow!" exclaimed Bliss. "Wow! I can't believe we made it through that! That was close!"
In all, seven cars were involved in the wreck including those of Scott Riggs, Joe Nemechek, Jon Wood, Paul Menard, David Gilliland, Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger.
After six caution laps, Bliss restarted the race on lap seven in the ninth position. Prepared to race his way to the front, Bliss got loose and spun into the outside wall of turn two on lap nine. Following the spin, he was hit on the right side by the No. 37 car driven by Boris Said substantially damaging the Paralyzed Veterans Dodge. Bliss finished the NEXTEL Open in 25th place.
"It was pretty treacherous out there at the start of the race," said Bliss. "The tires they give us here are so hard that they slide. I wasn't really that loose and the car just got away from me. Then I got hit and the race was over for our team. We're all disappointed to fall out early and to lose a good racecar."