ROSSBURG, OH - Dale Blaney and his Amoco ...
ROSSBURG, OH - Dale Blaney and his Amoco #93 Sprint Car Team have been steadily climbing the ladder in the Pennzoil World of Outlaws this season. On Saturday night, Blaney made a strong statement by winning the season's first big sprint car race, the 17th Annual King's Royal. The $50,000 prize was Blaney's first King's Royal victory and second win of the season.
"What a race," said Blaney, who became the ninth driver to be crowned "King" at Earl Baltes' famous mid-summer classic. " Being from Ohio, I really feel honored to win this race. I've always looked at this event as one the top three races of the year and these Outlaw guys are so tough to beat. I'm happy to win this one for Amoco and everyone involved with this team."
Blaney, who finished second to Sammy Swindell on Friday night by only a car length, took advantage of Mark Kinser's misfortune and led the final 11 laps of the 40-lap marathon. Blaney had to use every move in the book to keep 15-time WoO Champion Steve Kinser behind him during the final three laps.
"To beat Steve Kinser at the end is something that I'll cherish forever," said Blaney. "He's been doing this a long time and I did everything I could to keep him behind me. I've got a ton of respect for him and was happy that he raced me clean all the way to the end. He came up to me afterwards and told me that it was great race. That meant a lot."
The Amoco Team almost didn't even get the chance to compete in the race. Blaney only made one qualifying lap when his engine shut off. Crew Chief DJ Lindsey and Gene Jenkins changed electrical components and fuel lines trying to rectify the problem. After trying to start the #93 Maxim on two occasions, the team still couldn't find the problem. When his heat race was being pushed off, Blaney went out not knowing whether or not the car was going to run.
As fate would have it, the car ran well enough for Blaney to win the fourth heat race and earn a position in the Channellock Dash that guaranteed the Hartford, OH native a starting position within the first four rows.
Ironically, Blaney's right rear tire was losing air on the final lap of the heat, but he had enough of cushion to take the checkered flag first. The tire blew as he entered turn two and Blaney had to be towed back to the pit area. After the car returned, the team changed Mopar powerplants hoping that would fix the problem. Blaney was still having problems in the six-lap Dash, but finished fourth to earn the fourth starting position.
"It all worked out for us," said Blaney, whose best previous King's Royal finish was 4th in 1994. "We struggled so much early in the night trying to keep the motor running and to be able to start fourth overall was pretty incredible. We finally changed the on/off switch and that seemed to be the problem. It seemed like it was meant to be our night, and when things go your way, you've got to take advantage of it."
Blaney ran in fourth during the early stages of the race and by the halfway point he had passed Craig Dollansky and Joey Saldana to get to second. Mark Ki nser had built a substantial lead and looked to be the class of the field, but with twelve laps to go he blew a right rear tire and surrendered the post to Blaney. A red-flag two laps later allowed the Amoco crew to make minor adjustments on the #93 car for the final 10 laps. Blaney was able to get away from second place Steve Kinser until they reached lapped traffic with four laps remaining. Ultimately, Blaney made all the right moves to take the popular victory.
"It's a shame that Mark blew a tire, because he was probably better than anybody," explained Blaney. " I don't think anybody had a chance of catching him, but sometimes when you are running second you're good enough to win. When I saw him sitting there in turn four, I knew we were running strong enough to have a chance."
Not only was the win the first King's Royal victory for Blaney, but also the first one for his brother, Dave, as a car owner. Dave won the 1993 and 1995 King's Royal before he moved on to NASCAR. The owner was all smiles after the team's big victory.
"I couldn't be happier," said Blaney, who drives the Amoco Ultimate Pontiac for Bill Davis Racing. "I'm proud of DJ and Gene and especially Dale. He's driving real hard and doing a terrific job. I feel like he's stepped up a level. It's a different thing to be out here racing and doing well every once in a while then it is to be a threat every night. This victory will really help them. Winning breeds winning. The more you do it the easier it is."
So it's King for a day and then back on the track on Monday night as the grueling World of Outlaws season continues with a race in Terre Haute, IN. The long-term goals are still the focus, and Blaney's hoping they can continue to get better.
"We're looking to be consistent the rest of the year, but still run good in the big races," said Blaney, who holds sixth in the WoO standings. "Lernerville is the next one (on July 25) and you never know what might happen there. I think we've got a good shot at that one, but I feel like we've got a shot to win every night out. If we can get another one of these big races and consistently work our way into the top five, we'll consider it a good year."