DAVE BLANEY and his ...
DAVE BLANEY and his #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team posted the fourth-fastest time (49.683 secs.) in first-day practice for qualifying tomorrow at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2003 Brickyard 400. BLANEY will be using the same car (#22 chassis) that the #77 Jasper Motorsports team used the past two weekends to finish 13th at New Hampshire and ninth at Pocono.
"We had a great day, and hope for better things tomorrow," said Blaney. "We were fast from the start, good balance with the car at both ends, and got it a little better with every run we made. We brought the car we've run the past two weekends, and we've had better success with knowing what it needs with every day we've been at the track over the past two weeks. I think--unless the weather changes drastically--we'll be somewhere in the hunt tomorrow, and have a good starting spot for the 400 on Sunday."
* BLANEY's best start in the Brickyard 400 (four starts) is 20th (50.645-8/99), when his regular NASCAR Busch Series team (#93 Bill Davis Racing) did double-duty at both IMS and Indianapolis Raceway Park, qualifying on the first day to earn BLANEY his third career WC start; his best IMS finish is 15th last August, also the best finish in eight WC starts for teams sponsored by Jasper Engines & Transmissions in their home-state race; the best start by a Jasper-sponsored car at IMS is fifth (Bobby Hillin-8/96).
* After a less-than-satisfying qualifying effort (33rd-50.394 secs.) for the 2002 Brickyard 400 at IMS, BLANEY and the Jasper team had a productive pre-race practice session that yielded great dividends in the race; BLANEY moved up 20 positions before the second caution period on Lap 44 and after a two-tire stop during the fourth caution period at Lap 62, BLANEY trailed only Tony Stewart, Robbie Gordon and Sterling Marlin in the running order and remained among the top-15 through much of the race's middle stages; during a planned two-tire (rights) pit-stop with only 33 laps remaining, BLANEY pitted in 15th-place and appeared to be in position for another move forward in the running order until crew members noticed a flat left-front tire just as he was exiting the pit-box; BLANEY was forced to gingerly limp around for a second stop, placing him as the final car on the lead-lap (31st); BLANEY passed 16 cars in the last 27 laps to finish 15th, and for the day, passed a total of 51 cars at a track notorious for having limited passing opportunities.
* Including Ryan Newman's second win in three weeks at Pocono last weekend, entries powered by PENSKE-JASPER ENGINES have registered four wins and six pole positions in 20 races thus far in 2003; NEWMAN leads the trio of PJE-powered entries in the WC points, ranking ninth (2,363 points-four pole positions, four wins (Dover-1, Texas, Chicago, Pocono-2) eight top-5, 10 top-10s), while Penske teammate Rusty Wallace is 11th (2,333 points-one top-five, six top-tens); BLANEY is 24th (1,924 points-one pole position, 1 top-5, four top-10s). Jeremy Mayfield also won a pole (Talladega-4/6) with a PJE Engine as part of a limited restrictor-plate program with Evenrham Motorsports.
* In March, BLANEY posted a career-best third-place finish at Darlington, his third top-ten finish over a four-week stretch (10th at NCS after his first career pole position, eighth at Atlanta) following the season-opening Daytona 500.
* BLANEY and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team enter the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ranked 24th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series team standings, 102 points behind 20th-place Greg Biffle after his ninth-place finish at Pocono last weekend; BLANEY started 22nd for the second straight race at Pocono, raced in the mid-teens throughout the middle stages of the event, but was positioned in the top-ten by Lap 150 through good pit strategy and an improving race car, posting his first top-ten finish since his third-place finish at Darlington in March.