Dover International Speedway
Blaney Battled Handling Issues at the Monster Mile to Finish 26th
No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet Held onto 32nd in Owner Points
DOVER, DEL. – Dave Blaney and the Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) team battled handling issues to finish 26th in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism at Dover International Speedway. Blaney drove the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet from a 30th-place starting spot and endured problems with rubber on the track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) event. Blaney and the TBR team held their positions of 31st and 32nd, respectively, in the NSCS point standings.
The TBR team worked on the handling of the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet in race-trim during both practices. Blaney posted the 43rd-fastest time of 23.590 seconds in first practice and the 30th-fastest time of 23.344 seconds in qualifying-trim in final practice. With qualifying cancelled due to rain, the field was set by practice speeds, giving Blaney the 35th starting position.
Blaney took the green flag from the 35th position. He worked his way up to 32nd before radioing that the Golden Corral Chevrolet was loose. A caution on lap 21 allowed the TBR team to change four tires and make a trackbar adjustment to help the handling of the Chevrolet.
The race restarted on lap 25, and the Hartford, Ohio native drove into 29th place. Blaney radioed that the car was free in the first part of the corner and too tight in the last part, an issue that would plague the team all day. The competition caution flew on lap 40, and crew chief Tommy Baldwin called the Golden Corral Chevrolet down pit road for four tires, fuel, and trackbar and wedge adjustments.
Blaney restarted 27th but fell back to 28th as he explained to the crew that the car began to chatter in the turns. He worked on changing his line but struggled with the tire buildup on the one-mile racetrack. Before falling a lap down on lap 95, he radioed that the Chevrolet was tightening up everywhere. The team made the first green-flag pit stop on lap 109 and changed four tires.
On lap 122, the Buckeye Bullet was up to 27th, one lap down. He explained to the crew that the car’s handling did not change and he could not put any throttle into the corner while he searched for front grip. On lap 151, the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet fell a second lap down when leader Carl Edwards passed Blaney in turn one.
A small rain shower forced NASCAR officials to call a caution on lap 162. Blaney told Baldwin that they needed to address the tight-off condition through the center more than the loose-in condition. Baldwin called for the TBR crew to make a wedge adjustment. The Golden Corral Chevrolet restarted 30th, two laps down on lap 169. Eleven laps later, Blaney radioed that the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet was way too tight, loose around the corner and had no front grip.
By lap 211, the team fell a third lap down while in the 30th spot. Another yellow flag waved on lap 217, and Blaney explained that the car bounced really badly after 20-30 laps into a run. Despite the handling problems, Blaney was running times as fast as the top-10 cars by lap 325. On lap 334, the Golden Corral Chevrolet pulled in for another yellow-flag pit stop, and the team made changes to try to help the handling problem.
The field went green-flag racing for the next 20 laps before the sixth caution was called on lap 363. Blaney told the crew that the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet was worse bouncing in the turns, and Baldwin made another trackbar adjustment to the Chevrolet.
... it was a good day for what we had to work with.
The green flag waved on lap 366 with the Golden Corral Chevrolet in the 27th position, four laps down. Blaney worked passed the No. 32 of Mike Bliss for the 26th spot but fell back to 27th on lap 387. The Ohio native radioed to the crew that the No. 36 started off turning a little better but quickly fell back to the same problems. Blaney held on to finish 26th, four laps down in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.
The Golden Corral team is currently 32nd in NSCS Owner Points, 31 points ahead of Andy Lally in the 36th spot and 10 points out of 31st. Blaney still holds the 31st position in NSCS Driver Points, six points ahead of 32nd and 28 points out of 30th.
“It was a rough day,” explained Blaney. “Our car really struggled with the tire buildup on the racetrack. Every turn I had to work to avoid any rubber on the track. If I hit the rubber, the car would loose all grip. The Golden Corral team worked hard to make the car better all day. We gained points on the 36th spot, so in the end, it was a good day for what we had to work with.”
The TBR team will not compete in the All-Star race next weekend in order to take that time and money to focus on working on the fleet of cars needed to run the rest of the NSCS schedule. Blaney will return to the track in the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 29th.