Daytona II: Dave Blaney preview, mid-season notes

Dave Blaney -- ...

Dave Blaney -- #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford Taurus

PEPSI 400--DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY (July 6, 2002)

* DAVE BLANEY and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team enter the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) ranked 19th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings, 10 points behind 17th-place Terry Labonte and 114 points behind Penske-Jasper Engines teammate Ryan Newman in 15th; in the 2001 Pepsi 400 at DIS, BLANEY started 14th (49.538 secs.) and finished 21st on the lead-lap behind race-winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.; in the 2000 Pepsi 400, BLANEY started fourth (48.212 secs.) and finished 24th.

* As the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season reaches its mid-point at Daytona, the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team in 2002 ranks nine positions higher in the Winston Cup point standings (19th-28th) than at this point in 2001, has better average start (26.06-28.5) and average finish (19.56-22.94) ratios; BLANEY ranks fourth in miles completed behind Penske-Jasper Engines teammate Rusty Wallace (sixth in points), defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon (third in points) and Rookie-of-the-Year leader Jimmie Johnson (fourth in points); BLANEY ranked 26th in the 2001 Winston Cup standings entering the Pepsi 400 with his former team, (#93-Bill Davis Racing).

* Since his ninth-place finish at California in late April, BLANEY has posted three top-15 finishes, led four of the last seven races and was on his way to another potential finish at the front last week on the road-course at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. until being spun around with 20 laps remaining after a day-long run in the top-ten; he fell to the back of the lead-lap cars (32nd) but rallied in the closing laps to finish 20th.

* BLANEY started 42nd and finished 25th in the 2002 Daytona 500, his first start in the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford; entering 2002, BLANEY had an average start at DIS of 17.25 and an average finish of 28.5, including a 42nd-place finish in the 2001 Daytona 500 when he suffered engine failure in his first Dodge start with Bill Davis Racing while running in the top-ten; in 17 starts at Daytona, Jasper Engines & Transmissions has a best start as a sponsor of eighth (Greg Sacks, 7/94), a best overall finish of sixth (Sacks, 2/94) and a best event-finish of 17th (Robert Pressley, 7/00).

* Rusty Wallace leads the three Penske-Jasper Engines entries in the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings with nine top-ten finishes and 2,054 points (sixth), 144 points behind leader Sterling Marlin; Ryan Newman (1,786 points) ranks 15th and has five top-five and eight top-ten finishes; BLANEY ranks 19th (1,672 points), 114 points behind Newman.

BLANEY ON #77 PROGRESS AT MID-SEASON:

"We've improved almost weekly since we first came to Daytona for testing in January, especially in the past 60 days. We've improved our cars with some different ideas that better fit my driving style than maybe what the guys before me liked and that's made a big difference.

"We're learning each other better as a group and communicating better and that's a huge thing in this sport if you do it right--or if you don't. The Penske-Jasper Engine program is obviously outstanding, and our miles-completed ratio reflects that.

"It may not be that big a factor for some guys who have been around stock cars longer than me (four full seasons), but to be one of the two guys (also Stacy Compton) to have driven three different brands (Pontiac, Dodge, Ford) in my first three Winston Cup seasons with two different teams has not been a picnic.

"I'm really looking forward to the second-half of this year--because I think we'll be considerably better everywhere we've already raced this spring--and because I'll be working toward next season, when I don't have to get to know a brand new car and team for the first time in a long time. I'm looking forward to having some continuity in that area for a change."

CREW CHIEF RYAN PEMBERTON--MID-SEASON & PEPSI 400 PROGNOSIS:

"We haven't gotten the finishes we probably deserved, but much of that has been of our own doing--just little mistakes that might have been the product of being with Dave for the first time this year. Most of what we've run into have been correctable errors, which is encouraging when we look to the second half of the season.

"We've communicated with Dave and as a group much better since late April and we've run well at almost every type and size of track so we know we can build on our programs from short-tracks to speedways on what we learned first time around this spring.

"It did take us longer to get in sync with Dave than I thought it would. We had watched him run well at the end of last year, with a different mix of guys almost weekly and thought he'd just step in and we'd take off. We had to adapt our program around Dave and I probably didn't realize that until we were six races into the season. His style is totally different from Robert (Pressley), from one extreme to the other--.so the fact that the guys have been able to adapt so quickly to such a big change is good to see.

"As far as the Pepsi 400 is concerned, we're going to Daytona on wit and good graces and try to get a decent run. We have not sacrificed a lot of time on the superspeedway program this year because we've had a half-dozen changes since we tested in January and so much of what happens in restrictor-plate races is out of your control anyway. We decided to invest our time and effort on the cars for all the other style tracks.

"Dave has gone through a lot of changes since he came to the Winston Cup Series, but my approach to getting this team to the track each week will eventually benefit him in that area. I like continuity with all our programs and cars. Some crew chiefs don't look at it that way, but some many things are variables every week--weather, tires, track surface and more.

"I try to control what we can within our system--make everything as predictable, and efficient and simple as I can for Dave and for our guys. It's going to help Dave in the second half of the season to know that he's not looking at yet another (brand) change and that he can just settle in and go race. He hasn't really had that yet in the Winston Cup Series."

Websites: jaspernegines.com daveblaney.com

-jm-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Robert Pressley , Stacy Compton , Jimmie Johnson , Dave Blaney
Teams Bill Davis Racing