Blaney Makes Second 'Back-To-Front' Charge Of The Season Enroute To 12th-Place Finish At Chicagoland Speedway HIGH POINT, NC -- For the second time this season, Dave Blaney drove from the back of the field to the front, flirting with a ...
Blaney Makes Second 'Back-To-Front' Charge Of The Season Enroute To 12th-Place Finish At Chicagoland Speedway
HIGH POINT, NC -- For the second time this season, Dave Blaney drove from the back of the field to the front, flirting with a top-ten finish in the inaugural race at Chicagoland Speedway before settling in 12th-place behind race-winner Kevin Harvick. But unlike his charge through the field in the Texas race on April Fool's Day, the effort of Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens team at Chicago was more significant because of the improbability of such a positive outcome prior to the event.
At Texas, Blaney suffered a tire problem in qualifying and took the last available provisional starting spot, but subsequently was one of the fastest cars in ensuing practice sessions. That set the stage for Blaney's dramatic surge to the front during which he passed 61 cars enroute to an eventual sixth-place finish.
But at Chicago, both Blaney and Bill Davis Racing teammate Ward Burton -- each proficient on 1.5-mile tracks -- were uncharacteristically sluggish in both early practice and qualifying, placing 35th and 26th, respectively, in the starting order.
Then, Blaney lost control of the #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge entering the track's treacherous Turn 1 just three laps into the first post-qualifying practice session, destroying the team's primary car for the weekend and forcing Crew Chief Doug Randolph to quickly prepare his back-up car. Blaney -- now forced to the back of the field in his replacement car--never got up to speed in the final 45-minute practice session, placing last among the 43 drivers who earned starting positions for the second-ever Chicago-area NASCAR Winston Cup race.
But at the start of the 267-lap event, Blaney moved up nine positions quickly before the mandatory NASCAR caution period at Lap 40, showing a more competitive pace than at anytime during the four-day race weekend. Through creative pit strategy from Randolph and the Amoco crew, Blaney moved steadily through the field during the course of the race as track-position became a premium condition with only judicious passing on the slick, narrow racing surface.
After closing to within striking range of tenth-place finisher Bill Elliott on the race's final restart with five laps remaining, Blaney was shuffled back several spots, passing Rusty Wallace on the final turn to finish 12th, producing the biggest start-to-finish improvement (31 positions) of any car in the field along with fellow 2000 WC rookie-of-the-year candidates Matt Kenseth (30 positions -- 37th to 7th) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (25 positions -- 36th to 11th).
"From Lap 50 on, we really had a great car but we fought track-posiiton all day and it was just so hard to pass," said Blaney, who posted his fifth top-15 finish of the season (his third in the last five races) and is now 24th in the WC points standings, 108 points behind 20th-place Jerry Nadeau. You could be three-tenths of a second faster than a guy and once you got to him, you'd just lose the front end to where you couldn't get a run on him or pass. We finally got there where we could pass as the groove widened out a bit.
"I think everybody except the guys out front were fighting the same things at some point during the day. I think if we had just gotten track position any time during the race, we might have finished even better than we did. We were definitely one of the fastest 6-8 cars at the end but we had a long way to go through the field.
"It was a good smooth day for us -- good pit-stops, a good car and didn't make any mistakes. Considering everything that happened during the weekend, it was a pretty good finish. We struggled with both cars in practice, so I don't know if we would have been better with the car we lost. One or two more races at Chicago and this track will be great. It'll have a second groove and passing won't be as tough."