Daytona II: Dave Blaney race notes

Late-race accident denies Blaney and ...

Late-race accident denies Blaney and #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford chance to contend for first Winston Cup victory.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Dave Blaney and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team both enjoyed arguably their best career superspeedway race, but a late-race incident sidelined Blaney with only 10 miles to go, leaving him 28th in the final running order. After starting 30th, Blaney worked his way quickly through the field and into the top-ten by Lap 40, where he remained for the next 263 miles of the 400-mile race, racing as high as fourth in the lead-draft.

Throughout the middle stages of the 160-lap event, Blaney--in his 11th career Winston Cup superspeedway start--ran in a tight top-five pack with eventual race-winner Michael Waltrip, defending race champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr., current NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Sterling Marlin and Dale Jarrett as he contended for his first career NASCAR victory.

After running only eight laps of practice prior to the race's start--all in qualifying trim, Crew Chief Ryan Pemberton's well-conceived plan for the set-up on the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford allowed Blaney more handling comfort in Daytona's slippery corners than many of the other contenders late in his tire-runs, and good pit work by the #77 Jasper crew kept him in contention through the race.

In a mid-race segment spanning green-flag pit-stops on Lap 117-118, Blaney and eight others cars had distanced themselves from the rest of the field and appeared to be settling in to contend for the win until Tony Stewart's second spin of the night brought out the sixth caution-period of the race on Lap 125 bunched the field back up. Less than 20 miles later, the multi-car accident that has become a given at NASCAR superspeedways took out initiators Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton along with a a number of other contenders on Lap 139.

Blaney, however, slipped through the mayhem after dropping 10 spots on the previous restart and returned to contention (in 9th) for the ensuing restart on Lap 144. When the caution fell again for debris on the track on Lap 150, Blaney had again been shuffled back through the field and restarted 18th on Lap 153. Three laps later, rookie Ryan Newman cut a right-rear tire down after contact with Geoffrey Bodine and spun in Blaney's path, sending both cars into the wall and ending promising evenings for each.

After qualifying well back in the field, the trio of Penske-Jasper Engines-powered entries were front-runners throughout the race, with all reaching the top-ten by lap 45 and remaining there for the next 100 laps. Rusty Wallace eventually finished second behind race-winner Michael Waltrip while Newman (27th) finished just ahead of Blaney after their late-race misfortune.

"It's just a shame that we couldn't close the deal on this Daytona race because we were as good as anyone--with maybe the exception of the #15 (Waltrip)--for most of the race," said a disappointed Blaney following the race. "For the last four races (Pocono, Michigan, Sears Point, Daytona), we've had a legitimate top-ten car, but we've only gotten one top-ten finish out of it.

"It is a great indication of how far this team has come in terms of putting together a plan for the second half of the season and what we need to do each week to win some races. I'm disappointed about tonight but excited about going to Chicago next week-where the #77 almost won last year and where I had a good run (12th)--and excited about the rest of the year. In the last month, we've beena contender at four different types of race tracks and that's a good sign we're moving in the right direction with all our programs."

With the finish, Blaney remained 19th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings, 29 points behind 18th-place Kyle Petty and 130 points behind 15th-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. entering next weekend's race at Chicagoland Speedway.



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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Geoffrey Bodine , Kyle Petty , Ryan Newman , Dave Blaney