DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Blaney, a 36-year-old former World-of-Outlaws Champion, will start 15th in Sunday's NAPA 500. Blaney will drive the same Dodge Intrepid R/T that carried him to a Winston Cup ...
DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Blaney, a 36-year-old former World-of-Outlaws Champion, will start 15th in Sunday's NAPA 500. Blaney will drive the same Dodge Intrepid R/T that carried him to a Winston Cup career-best finish of sixth earlier this season at Texas. He also drove the same Intrepid at Atlanta and led 70 laps before mechanical problems robbed him of his first career victory.
"This is not the same kind of race track as Atlanta or Texas, but this is still our best race car. It was one of last year's chassis with the body torn off and the Dodge put on it. This isn't quite the momentum race track that Atlanta and Texas is. There's not as much bank here. California Speedway is a handling race track, but you've got to have everything. You've got to have handling, a slippery car, a good engine, the total package. Mostly you've got to handle good. If we get it handling good and don't make any mistakes in the pits or otherwise, we could have a shot.
"Anytime you qualify 15th or better, you've got to be happy with it. I honestly thought it was a better lap than I ran. After I made the lap, I thought it was pretty good. They told me what it was, and I was kind of disappointed. It's easy to overdrive it here and make a mistake. I might not have driven it in the corner hard enough, not wanting to make a mistake. I might have left something out there, but I would have been real disappointed if we had been 30th, but 15th is OK.
"You've got to keep getting in the corner here. If you're handling good, you can. If you're not, you'll have to slow down getting in the corner and that will hurt you all day long. The guys up front will be getting into the corners.
"We'll probably do a two-tire run in Happy Hour and see how it goes. We'll know more after that. We'll see how long the tires hold on. A lot of times after a yellow at Texas they were coming back to a good speed. I'm sure they will here. There shouldn't be much difference. Goodyear has nice stuff. It's hard and comes back after yellows. It's a pretty secure feeling tire getting in the corners. I like the tires.
"You've got to do whatever the car or tire wants. You can't overdrive this tire getting in the corner. If you do, you'll mostly likely lose the front end. You can only do what the car will do. You can take it to the limit but if you go past the limit, you're going to go slower. It's more sensitive to the way you get in the corner. You've got to have the car handling good to make these tires go.
"I think a lot of guys have some soft springs on the front and the bump stops, and we're the same way. It's tricky. Sometimes if you hit if just right you're really good. Other times, you can be off with it and struggle bad. We haven't got a real good handle on that stuff yet, but we're working on it. When you do get it right, it's an advantage.
"Our performance is about like I'd hoped it would be. We've had some good races where we've run awfully well. We haven't got finishes out of a few of them that I wished we had. If we would have got those finishes, we'd be sitting in the points about where I'd hoped -- 15th or so. We're 27th, but if we string together three or four good races, we could shoot up to the teens. I think that's a very realistic goal for this team, the top 15 in the points. If we just put it together weekly and don't have any real bad races, I think we can get there.
"With this tire, I think we'll see a lot of long green flag runs Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised if it went with one or two cautions. I thought it (no caution race) could happen last week at Talladega, especially after they took away racing under the yellow line. That's what made it happen. It got rid of the four-wide getting in the corner stuff, and that's what starts most of the problems. I thought guys were going to use their heads most of the race. At the end of the race there could easily have been a caution, but there wasn't. Caution-free here wouldn't really surprise me. I've got to think there'll be one or two, but it wouldn't surprise me if it went green all day."
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Petty qualified 14th for Sunday's race. He failed to qualify for four of 10 races this season and used a provisional in another. The 40-year-old driver from Randleman, N.C., will be making his 591st career start on Sunday. John Andretti, driving the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge out of the Petty Enterprises stables, will start 11th and Buckshot Jones failed to qualify the third Petty Enterprises entry, the No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge, for the first time this season.
"If you look at Talladega or anywhere we've been, we've all qualified real close. As a group, we're either good or bad. At Talladega, Buckshot was 29th, John was 34th and I was 38th. If you look at Atlanta, we were 14th, 16th and 18th. If you look at Bristol, we were all right there together. The way it's been, it's been as a group. The difference being that those two cars have had provisionals and we haven't had provisionals, so we go home.
"Whatever we do, we seem to do as a group. We're either pretty good as a group or pretty bad as a group as far as qualifying goes. We've just got to get some consistency on that part.
"We've had more engine problems than the other two cars, and what we did is this. Once we missed those first couple of races, we were willing to push the envelop a little more. Not that the 45 team is an experimental team, but you're willing to push the envelop a little bit more with what you're trying because you're already hurt. What's another Band-Aid on something that's already hurt. Sometimes we're willing to try some stuff. If you look at the stuff we've broken, we've broken a valve spring or a rocker arm, a timing belt, an oil pump belt. We've broken a multitude of things. It's not been just one thing.
"Our problem is we've not been making races and we're making races and finishing 42nd and 43rd. We're not making points, and that's kind of compounded our problems. Hopefully what we learn in the first eight or 10 races or 15 or 20 or even the first season will help everybody at Petty Enterprises move forward in the second season.
"We've just got to make races and run competitive. Even though we're 45th in points and Buckshot is 38th and John is 29th, we're back to our group thing again. John was up after he came out of Bristol with that second-place run, but he had two bad races and he drops back. We're either there or not and we've got to find consistency. We want to move everybody forward as far as we can wherever that might be.
"I think John as a driver can win anywhere he goes. It's up to us to give him the equipment to win with. We've got to get Buckshot to that point, and he's getting a little more confident. It's hard to stay confident when you go somewhere and finish second and then you go the next week and run 42nd. That's been the biggest problem. The equipment is not allowing the drivers and teams to do what they want to do. That's our problem at Petty Enterprises. We've got to give them better stuff.
"Buckshot was pumped up after Talladega (finished 16th). That's what I told him yesterday after he missed the race. You have good days and bad days. You didn't get to yesterday's position just yesterday. You got there by being in a wreck at Daytona, by breaking motors in Atlanta, but to go to Talladega and run fifth or sixth was great. We didn't have cars capable of winning the race, but we had cars capable of running in the top 10 or 15.
"I don't know what I'm like. Sometimes I feel like the lady that's in charge of the dorm for the fraternity. I just go in and clean up when they make a mess or run wild. I guess I am a little bit more like a player-coach. I got the whole group together yesterday after Buckshot didn't make the race. I've been there this year, and I know what it feels like. You can't get down on yourself and get down on what's going on. We'll come back next week at Richmond and show 'em we're as good as they are. You've got to look at it that way. We want three cars in every race. So far, we're putting about two and a half cars in every race. We need three teams that's competitive enough to qualify for every race and run competitive in every race. We're just not there yet. For John and Buckshot and the teams, I think they kind of look back and wonder what Kyle is going to think about this or that, so I guess I am a little bit like a player-coach.
"I'm looking at things maybe way different and way wrong. John and Buckshot look at things like we're nine races into a 36-race schedule. That's what they need to look at. I, on the other hand, say we're nine races into 180 races. That's five years. I'm looking at a bigger picture and longer term, and we've got plenty of time to catch up. I'm trying to look at the bigger picture. At the end of the year, I'll look at it and see where we are. I don't think missing races has really done anything to this team. The team has kept its head up and kept plugging along.
"If we ran a schedule where you ran three races and then had one week off, three weeks and a week off, I think they'd have something. Where people are really going to suffer is that 20-race stretch. I think they're absolutely physically and morally and mentally kill people. You've got no time to raise your head up and look around and see what's going on. People are going to go in one side of that tunnel happily married and come out the other side divorced. It's going to be ugly sometimes for people at home and the race track. We're border line running too many races, not for the drivers or sponsors, but I think you are for the NASCAR officials and the guys on the crews. I don't care if you've got three crews you can put in rotation, that's still too many races."