Atlanta Dave Blaney returns to site of strangest career race

HIGH POINT, NC -- One year ago this weekend, Dave Blaney enjoyed the most noteworthy and bizarre weekend of his brief NASCAR career. In only his 25th NASCAR start in any division, Blaney won the first of a series-leading four pole positions and...

HIGH POINT, NC -- One year ago this weekend, Dave Blaney enjoyed the most noteworthy and bizarre weekend of his brief NASCAR career. In only his 25th NASCAR start in any division, Blaney won the first of a series-leading four pole positions and led 52 laps enroute to a second-place finish behind Mike Skinner for the Amoco Ultimate Team 93 Pontiac in the Busch Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

And after almost eight hours of post-race inspections and discussions, Blaney was declared the winner of the race when NASCAR officials determined that Skinner's car had an unapproved engine part. Blaney received the call about the news from Crew Chief Gil Martin while driving his motorhome back to North Carolina. Four days later, the decision was rereversed on appeal by a NASCAR board, giving the win back to Skinner.

The protracted process following the Busch Series race in Atlanta left a sour taste with the members of Blaney's #93 Amoco team and left almost everyone else with considerable conjecture and confusion, so much so that several pre-season publications (including one NASCAR guide) credited Blaney with one victory in an otherwise winless season.

The Amoco team would go on to finish sixth in the final NASCAR Busch Series standings and register 14 other top-15 finishes in 1999, including an additional runner-up effort at Darlington in the fall and seven other top-ten finishes at different Winston Cup tracks. Blaney would finish the season with top-ten starts at Miami (fourth) and Atlanta (seventh) as well as good race efforts. Still, the Busch Series performance at Atlanta in March remains close to the surface with Blaney and the Bill Davis Racing team as they prepare for the Cracker Barrel 500 this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"After some time had passed, I know we all felt that the way it all ended up was probably for the best," said Blaney, a 15-year veteran of the sprint car ranks before signing with Bill Davis Racing prior to the 1998 season. "I know in all the years I've been racing that was the strangest post-race thing I'd ever been involved with.

"Even though we'd run well enough to win the race, I didn't feel comfortable at all talking about it early in the following week because we hadn't come across the line first. I think almost any athlete would want to win the right way. And as hard as wins are to come by in any NASCAR division, I still believe we all would have preferred to win the race outright. That feeling stayed with us all season. "

And after a strong overall fall effort in Busch Series races, Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens team punctuated their season with competitive performances at Miami and Atlanta. In the season-finale at AMS, Blaney qualified seventh, one position behind BDR teammate Ward Burton and the #22 Caterpillar team. He remained in the top-15 throughout the race's opening 180 laps before slipping in fluids from Jeff Gordon's blown engine and sliding into the Turn 3 wall, ending his day.

"There's no question that we ran better and I got more comfortable at the mid-size speedways like Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas, " said Blaney, who won Busch Series pole positions at each track during his 51-race Busch Series experience in 1998-99. "We've been up-and-down so far this season and I think we have all been looking forward to the Atlanta race this weekend as a place we have some experience at and can expect a little more from our overall effort."

In his last six starts at the 1.5-mile tracks on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule, Blaney produced at average finish of 12.3 (with a best-finish of second at AMS) and an average start of 2.83, including three poles and five top-three starts. In the November Winston Cup race at Atlanta, Blaney's seventh-place qualifying effort was .22 behind the pole speed for Kevin Lepage at 28.831 seconds (192.293 mph).

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Mike Skinner , Kevin Lepage , Dave Blaney
Teams Bill Davis Racing