DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Blaney was second with six laps remaining in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. After going below the yellow line and coming back up the track, Tony Stewart ran...
DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Blaney was second with six laps remaining in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. After going below the yellow line and coming back up the track, Tony Stewart ran into Blaney's Dodge. Blaney had to lift and ended up 21st in the 43-car field. Understandably upset after the race, Blaney changed his tune after watching a tape replay and talking to Stewart on Monday.
"It was my fault," Blaney said. "I left Tony too much room to get in and he stuck it in there. If I'd been in his shoes, I would have done the same thing. At the time, I didn't think I did, but I got myself in that predicament. I called Tony and talked to him. The first thing he said was he was sorry, and I told him there was no need to be saying that. I shouldn't have mouthed off before I saw what happened. We're friends anyway. He walked by me Saturday night, and I yelled at him and that was it. Everybody gets mad when they're put in these spots. It's just that type of racing.
"I'm still steaming about it because we had a chance to get a good finish. I'm mad at myself more than anybody else. You run the whole race trying to stay out of trouble, and we had an excellent chance to do something at the end, and I gave it away.
"I talked to Doug (crew chief Randolph) today, and he told me to stay motivated, that maybe I'd run better next weekend if I stayed that way. It was every man for himself after that final restart, and I knew that. We all were just trying to get all we could get on those last five laps.
"As a group, all the Dodge teams have run into snags this season, but I think some teams have us beat engine wise. Yates, Hendrick and Penske have won a lot of races. Their engines might not win ^Ñem races, but it keeps ^Ñem in the race. For a first-year deal with Dodge, I think we're doing good. A lot of huge teams with a lot of resources are running ahead of us, but we're working hard to catch up. I think we're right where I thought we'd be. Ward (teammate Burton) and I have both had chances to win and got knocked back, but race wise, we've not been too terrible.
"Amoco headquarters are in Chicago, and they've been a great sponsor. They sponsored my sprint car for three years, and they gave Bill Davis the opportunity to start a second team. We're disappointed to be losing them, but they've been awfully good to me and we'd like to go to Chicago and have a good run for them this weekend.
"On a daily basis, you think about trying to land a new sponsor, but once you get on the race track, you've got plenty more things to think about. We're talking to three or four companies and hopefully we can land another deal soon. Things are looking pretty good.
"Maybe the playing field will be a little more even than normal at Chicago since it's the first time we've raced there, but the teams that run good every week and have the most experience will be up front. The guys with the better teams might even adapt quicker to the new track. You really never know what's going to happen.
"I'd say my inexperience as a Winston Cup driver is the biggest thing ho lding us back right now. We've had a couple of chances to win this year, and Ward has, too, but me not knowing what to do with the car is probably holding us back a little. Take Saturday night at Daytona. I made one mistake, and it didn't cost us one spot. It cost us about 20 spots. I had to lift to keep from wrecking after Tony ran into me, and it took me another lap to get going again. When you're stacked up that tight, you're going to make mistakes. It just seems like the more experienced drivers make fewer mistakes, and when they do make mistakes, it might not cost them as much as it does the less experienced drivers. I guess I should just chalk it up as another restrictor-plate incident."
DOUG RANDOLPH (Crew chief No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"What happened to us at Daytona was a bad deal for everybody, but it's just not racing. You might as well throw the dice and see what number comes up. Tony Stewart went below the yellow line, bounced up and hit Dave. If it had been the same situation and the roles were reversed, I'd be mad if Dave didn't do the same thing, but it's aggravating. We went from second to 22nd in two laps. You're going to be mad at somebody when that happens, but that's just the way it is.
"Dave had to get out of the gas. I think it was an awfully aggressive move by Tony Stewart, and it was a shame it happened. When you drop from second to 22nd, it's hard to stomach something like that. I'd like to think we could have held on for a top five or at least a top 10 if that hadn't happened. Things usually get real crazy with a lap to go, but they got real crazy with four laps to go this time.
"You sit there all night and watch what's going on. The 7 and 31 took some chances all night long. The 10, 18 and 20 were just riding around at the back until the last 10 laps. It seems like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. It's hard to say what's the right thing to do, whether you should lay back or get up front and cause a commotion.
"We'll just try to put it behind us and go on to Chicago. We're going to take our Michigan car there, and we're real excited about it because it sounds like Dave's kind of track. It sounds like a combination of Texas and Michigan. We'll all get it figured out. We didn't test there, so it'll take awhile to figure out what springs and gears we need to run. When we get those questions answered, then we'll worry about the rest of the setup.
"We're going to start off working on qualifying stuff, and the 22 is going to work on the race package. I think that'll help us. We really haven't gone all out to win a pole this season. We'll probably do that at Michigan, and we may save a test for Atlanta and concentrate on winning a pole in the season finale.
"Bill Davis is back now, and that's given the team a big boost. Bill's a laid back guy, but he's a hands-on owner. He might spend an hour or two a day walking through the shop, and no one really knows how important that is. He really lets the guys know that he cares about the team.
"I suppose our goals for the rest of the year is to get back to the top 20 in points, and we're going to have to race up to our potential to do that. You never know when the wins will or won't come. If we can get two or three top five finishes in these last 19 races, then we'll have a shot at winning."
CHAD KNAUS (Crew chief No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Knaus is a Rockford, Ill., native. He left the Chicago area in 1991 and moved south to pursue a NASCAR Winston Cup racing career.
"I've got a few friends left in the area, but I'm just going up there to race," Knaus said. "We tested at Chicagoland, but it rained us out. We only got to make four runs. They didn't count it as a test against us, but we didn't learn anything, either.
"We're pretty much going in blind. We'll go in and see how quick we are. If we unload quick, then we might back off of the qualifying practice and work on some race stuff. If not, we'll concentrate on the qualifying stuff.
"We qualified third at Daytona, but it got pretty hot in Florida last week. We were looking good for awhile, but once the race started the car went away. It didn't work like it did in qualifying and practice. We were loose from the start, and then when we tightened it up, it got too tight. We were pretty good from the start but after 15 laps it got loose and I really can't tell you why. We're looking into it.
"I'd say Chicago is going to take a cross setup between Las Vegas and California. We're going to take our Las Vegas Intrepid, and I think Stacy will do well there. He likes the fast, flat tracks, and I think you're going to see that Chicago will be a lot like Las Vegas."
CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We didn't get to test at Chicago, but Bill (Evernham Motorsports teammate Elliott) did and we know it's going to be fast. It's probably going to be one of the fastest tracks we go to. We're going to take our Pocono car, and it was a real good car for us at Pocono. You can't really do anything special for a track you've never been to before, but it might play into a rookie's hands. Nobody has been there before, and everybody should be on level ground except the guys who tested there.
"I'm really looking forward to it because we were so disappointed with the way things went at Daytona. We qualified fourth (best qualifying effort of the season), but the car was real loose in the draft. It felt like it was about to wreck every lap. It was so loose I couldn't drive it. It didn't feel like it did in qualifying or in practice after qualifying. I don't like to run in the back. It looked like we were just out there riding around in the back of the field all night, but I was really disappointed we couldn't race. We were prepared to run good, and we had a shot to get a good finish. I really don't know what happened, but I'm sure we'll find out."