BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2007) -- After posting a sixth-place finish last weekend at Michigan International Speedway and a top-five qualifying run Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway, Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team hoped their...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2007) -- After posting a sixth-place finish last weekend at Michigan International Speedway and a top-five qualifying run Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway, Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team hoped their recent success would carry over to Saturday's Sharpie 500. The team was forced to work through handling issues during the first half of the event before hitting on just the right setup. Unfortunately, Blaney was never able to overcome losing several laps early in the event, and though the car ran extremely well the second half of the race, the Caterpillar Racing team was forced to accept a 31st-place finish.
Blaney was the 17th of 48 competitors to take to the track for qualifying Friday afternoon. The Caterpillar Racing team was automatically locked into the field this week by virtue of its position within the top 35 in the owners' points standings. Blaney's speed of 119.106 mph around the .533-mile track was quick enough to earn the fifth spot on the starting grid for Saturday night's event. It was the second time this season the Caterpillar Toyota has lined up inside the top five for the start of a race.
Blaney took the green flag Saturday night and immediately knew he was in trouble. The Cat driver communicated to crew chief Tommy Baldwin that the car didn't have any grip. Blaney began to fall through the field. The event went caution-free for more than 100 laps, and Blaney went one lap down to leader Kasey Kahne on lap 117 while running in the 31st position. Baldwin called his driver in for a four-tire pit stop several laps later, during which time the team made a track bar adjustment to tighten the car's handling. Unfortunately, the caution flag waved several laps later, and the Cat car was caught two laps down. After making an additional pit stop during the caution period and serving a penalty issued by NASCAR for speeding down pit road during the first stop of the day, Blaney lined up for the lap-135 restart in 36th place.
Though the changes made to the Caterpillar machine helped some, Blaney needed more. Baldwin called for additional chassis adjustments during several pit stops throughout the first half of the event. The team finally hit on the right combination of wedge and air pressure adjustments during a stop on lap 216. Blaney held the 36th position on a lap-220 restart. Due to his three-lap deficit, he was not able to make up much ground in the rundown. However, he was running his competitors down on the track.
As the race passed the 300-lap mark, Blaney was posting lap times as quick as those of the leaders. He continued to pass cars both on the top and bottom of the newly-repaved track. By the time the checkered flag waved, the Caterpillar Camry held the 31st spot.
The Caterpillar Racing team will head west next weekend to the two-mile oval in Fontana, Calif., for the Sharp Aquos 500. Qualifying will be held Friday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon's race is scheduled for a 5 p.m. ET start. The event will be broadcast on ESPN television, MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.