**BLANEY on team progress after four races in 2003 and trip to Darlington--."We said at the beginning of the year that one of our primary goals was to improve on where our consistency placed us in the field. Last year, we finished in the middle ...
**BLANEY on team progress after four races in 2003 and trip to Darlington--."We said at the beginning of the year that one of our primary goals was to improve on where our consistency placed us in the field. Last year, we finished in the middle teens in one-third of our races, completed a lot of laps and miles, and got a finish in the points (19th) that was an improvement over what they'd done here with the Jasper program in the past. What we wanted to this year is move that all forward a few positions, week-to-week and in the overall point standings. That wasn't a huge goal, but there are so many quality teams, that when you look at who you think you can move past that was head of you last year, you don't see too many obvious choices.
"We were competitive all day at Rockingham after winning the pole and pretty much the same at Atlanta, but--in between--we were terrible all weekend at Las Vegas. We can't have too many of those weekends and expect to move forward from where we were a year ago. We're taking the same car to Darlington that we took to Las Vegas but I think we all learned a lot from our struggles out there.
"We're still working with cars that have many key elements that are new to our team, and the new body locations, which are still fairly new to everyone in the Winston Cup garage. And (Crew Chief) Bootie's (Barker) still is figuring out how to approach some things on these Winston Cup cars that are real different from the Busch cars he worked on the past few years. It might take a little while for all that to come together, but there's no question we're on the right path. Our new over-the-wall guys are outstanding, and getting better. And we're learning what direction we want to ultimately go with some of the newer cars we're building. It's an exciting time for me, because I can finally feel some good progress."
**BLANEY on eighth-place finish at Atlanta last weekend--"We had a good day and we needed a good day. We ran solid all day and just kept creeping forward. Unfortunately, sixth-seventh-eighth was all we could do. We couldn't get the car any faster than that. I was kind of yo-yoing back and forth all day. I'd be really good in one corner and struggle a little bit in the other, so I was kind of biding my time. We could never really get it good to run with the top guys, but after a miserable week in Las Vegas, the Atlanta run got us back on track. Overall, it was good weekend in spite of our qualifying day (27th), and we gained back the points we lost (15th). We're in the hunt so far, which feels great."
Jasper Motorsports (Atlanta Rewind)
*Needing a steady performance after a dismal weekend in Las Vegas, Dave Blaney and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Team rallied from less-than-satisfactory qualifying day to post their second top-ten finish in three weeks, a rock-solid eighth-place effort in the Bass Pro Shops/MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After posting the seventh-fastest pre-qualifying practice time, Blaney joined a half-dozen contenders for the AMS pole position who slid back into the second-half of the qualifying order (27th) after making their qualifying runs with ill-handling race cars. But when the 325-lap race started 48 hours later, Blaney showed his car's true strengths by surging past 16 cars in the first ten minutes of the race, moving into 11th-place on Lap 18.
With the race's first 200 miles running caution-free, Blaney and the lead-pack put over 75% of the 43-car field at least one lap down by the first caution period on Lap 134. He remained among the leaders throughout the next two hours, running as high as sixth in the final 100 miles before fading slightly during rash of caution periods in the final 25 laps.