HIGH POINT, NC -- The toughest break in a very difficult weekend for Dave Blaney and Amoco Ultimate Team 93 went virtually unnoticed by anyone outside the Bill Davis Racing teams. Long before the two NASCAR Winston Cup practice sessions prior to...
HIGH POINT, NC -- The toughest break in a very difficult weekend for Dave Blaney and Amoco Ultimate Team 93 went virtually unnoticed by anyone outside the Bill Davis Racing teams. Long before the two NASCAR Winston Cup practice sessions prior to first-round qualifying or Blaney's first-lap crash in practice on Saturday morning, a Team 93 crewman drew first for the qualifying session among the 47 cars attempting to make the field for the DuraLube/Kmart 400 at Rockingham.
During his first two NASCAR seasons in the Busch Series, Blaney went to 17 different tracks where the first time he saw the track was also the first time he drove off pit road for the first practice session of the weekend. Remarkably, Blaney always found a way to get up to speed, regardless of where his practice laps left him on the pre-qualifying rundowns. And many times when his qualifying draw was kind, Blaney would venture to his most troublesome corner of the track and watch the first group of cars on their qualifying runs, using his aesthetic senses to help determine where he might improve his own on-track fortunes.
In his first visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway last spring, Blaney was mired in the high 50's after practice among the 60-plus cars attempting to qualify for the Busch Series race at the 1.5-mile track. With a high qualifying draw, Blaney watched more than 20 early qualifiers, then improved his rank over 25 positions to make the field and start 32nd for the Sam's Town Las Vegas 300 at LVMS.
To compound an unexpectedly rugged start to the 2000 season for the Amoco/Siemens team, Blaney struggled in his first two qualifying sessions at Rockingham, posted a 40th-place first-round time, then was forced to a back-up car when he backed his primary car into the wall early in practice prior to second-round qualifying. With only four practice laps on the back-up Pontiac, Blaney failed to make the race, joining two other high-profile first-year drivers (Scott Pruett, Mike Bliss) vying with Blaney for the 2000 Raybestos Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title.
"It was definitely the wrong race to draw first in the qualifying," said Amoco/Siemens Crew Chief Gil Martin. "We brought a new car to Rockingham and we were searched to find the right combination all day on Friday. I really believe if we could have gotten past the Saturday morning practice without the incident, we would have been OK. But Dave has always been able to learn something when he draws up late in qualifying and has a chance to watch some of the early runs before making his.
"It's going to be tough all year for this rookie class because there's 48-50 cars that will be pretty strong every week. Because he came on so well last year in the Busch Series cars, people sometimes forget that Dave's only had 64 starts in stock cars and we're asking a lot from him every week to get up to speed right away. This is the best collection of drivers and teams anywhere and there's very little margin for error."
Martin and the Amoco/Siemens team did not test at Rockingham through the busy month of January but had a productive two-day test at Las Vegas, targeted at helping Blaney return to LVMS with increased experience and a better starting point than a year ago."
"The bottom line was that we just didn't go fast enough," said Blaney. "We really wanted to get off to a solid start, make all the races and be consistent. But we've got a great operation to lean on and we'll get past this. We know we've got a lot to learn but it's a long season and we've got great things ahead for the entire Bill Davis team."
NOTE: Ward Burton's third-place finish behind Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt in Sunday's race at Rockingham was his 13th top-15 finish in his last 14 starts, dating back to last August's night race at Bristol. The string for the #22 Caterpillar/Polaris team includes seven top-10's and runner-up efforts last season at both Darlington and Rockingham.