Indianapolis: Dave Blaney preview

The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always held a special meaning for ...

The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always held a special meaning for #77 Ford sponsor Indiana-based Jasper Engines & Transmissions, which started as a small home-grown business affiliated with a local car dealership and has grown in its 60th year to become largest mass-remanufacturer of gasoline and diesel engines in the world with 29 locations nationwide. Perhaps no NASCAR Winston Cup Series sponsor covets a win in the Brickyard 400--one of the sport's premier events--more than Jasper Engines, which also serves as co-owner of the Penske-Jasper Engines NASCAR operation that serves the #77 team as well as the Penske South #2 (Rusty Wallace) and #12 (Ryan Newman) teams

DAVE BLANEY on the importance of Indianapolis--..

"I believe they could say that the winner's share for the Brickyard 400 would be a sack of Indiana corn, and every real racer would still think this is one of the most important races on their schedule to work to win. Most of the guys I'm racing around now in the Winston Cup Series grew up racing stock-cars and to them, winning Daytona was everything. That was THE race. And it's big for me now, too.

"But I grew up in Northeastern Ohio, where sprint-cars are king, and every kid dreams of racing and winning at Indianapolis. There was probably a point in my World of Outlaws career where I thought maybe I'd race here one day, but in open-wheel cars. If any driver tells you that racing at the Brickyard in any race is 'just another race' because it pays just as many points as Daytona, Texas or Martinsville, they're lying. It's a big deal for everyone of us every time we come here."

BLANEY on the importance of winning at IMS for Jasper Engines--.

"Almost any sponsor in our sport--big or small--wants to win at Daytona or Indianapolis, because it's a victory that can carry you through a whole season in every way--with the people that buy their products right down to the guys on your race team that can say they won the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400--regardless of how the rest of their season has gone.

"But for the Jasper Engines guys, it's got to be so much more. The company started in a southern Indiana town of maybe 10,000 in the early 1940's and, while the company's gone nationwide and gotten bigger, the town's stayed the same and the people who work in the plant are probably still the same sort of people that built the company into what it is today.

"They've probably followed racing at the Brickyard with the same sort of passion that I did. The meaning of seeing their car at the front of the field or in Victory Lane at Indy would be something that they would never----never forget."

* DAVE BLANEY and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team enter the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ranked 21st in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings, only 24 points behind 20th-place Jeff Green, 37 points behind 19th-place Bobby Labonte and 39 points behind 18th-place Elliott Sadler; in three career WC starts at Indiaiapolis, Blaney has a best-start of 20th (50.645 secs.) for the 1999 race, when he was still a Busch Series regular; his average-start at Indy is 28.6, his best-finish is 23rd (8/00) and his average-finish is 30.3; in seven starts at IMS, the #77 Jasper team has a best-start of fifth (Bobby Hillin--8/96), an average-start of 17.1, a best-finish of 17th (Robert Pressley--8/99) and an average-finish of 27.3.

* In last year's Brickyard 400, Blaney started 24th (51.031 secs.) and finished 40th, sidelined on Lap 100 after a restart accident when cars bunched up off Turn 4 and he folded the front of the #93 Amoco Dodge; in the 2001 event at IMS, Pressley started 21st (50.966 secs) in the #77 Jasper Ford and finished 35th, two laps down to race-winner Jeff Gordon.

* In the first Brickyard 400 at IMS, the #77 Jasper Ford--driven by Greg Sacks--started 13th and finished 18th, but led laps mid-race in the home-state of primary sponsor, Jasper Engines & Transmissions.

* As the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season reaches its Race #21 after the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway last weekend, the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team in 2002 ranks one position lower (21st) in the Winston Cup standings than the 2001 team (20th) entering the Brickyard 400, but has better average start (23.99-26.33) and average finish (20.75-20.99) ratios; BLANEY ranks fourth in miles completed behind defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon (fourth in points), Rookie-of-the-Year leader Jimmie Johnson (third in points) and Bill Elliott (ninth in points); BLANEY ranked 26th in the 2001 Winston Cup standings entering the 2001 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis with the #93 BDR Dodge.

* Since his ninth-place finish at California in late April, BLANEY has posted only three top-15 finishes, but has led five races, and run at the front of several other events, including Sears Point and Daytona--where Blaney ran in the top-ten for more than two-thirds of each race before late trouble and at Pocono last weekend, where he led and ran in the top-12 throughout the race before a slow final pit stop mired him deep in the field; he finished 22nd; at Chicago and New Hampshire, Blaney posted consecutive season-best starts (7th and 5th, respectively), but suffered crippling problems early in each event, racing from behind to finish 17th at Chicago after being forced to the rear of the field at the start when his car stalled on pit road and being spun into the wall on Lap 2 at NHIS while passing for third. He finished 16 laps down in 35th.

* Rusty Wallace leads the three Penske-Jasper Engines entries in the 2002 Winston Cup standings in eighth-place (2,520 points--2 top-fives, 11 top-tens), 259 points behind leader Sterling Marlin; Ryan Newman (2,348 points) ranks 12th (8 top-fives, 11 top-tens); BLANEY ranks 22nd (2,023 points).

REWIND--INDY TEST (7/9-10)--.Dave Blaney and the #77 Jasper Ford Team posted consistent speeds in the abbreviated NASCAR Winston Cup Series Session 1 for the 2002 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Blaney first-day speeds for the two #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Fords were seventh (175.721 mph.) and 12th, respectively, as most teams opted to make longer practice runs with set-ups more configured for race conditions.

Blaney's best second-day qualifying-trim speed (178.268 mph.) in the team's A car ranked eighth overall among the 27 times posted on Day 2, as was just slightly slower than the overall fast-time from Day 1, set by Mike Skinner (178.298 mph.) Blaney's time in the team's B entry ranked 13th on Day 2.

"Overall, the test went OK, but we left knowing we still had a lot of work to do before we come back for the race," said Blaney. "All you can do is tune for all the different weather you get and try to get the car as good as you can when you're at Indy for the test because it changes so much and the track's so sensitive to it.

"We were in race trim on Day 1 and did some qualifying runs early on Day 2, and then went back to race trim. We were trying a little bit of everything. We were in qualifying trim, and the track was fast when it was cool out. We were second on the board for a long time, but guys went back out later in the day and put some big numbers up. Still, we've developed a good baseline to work from over the past three weeks and I think we're in good shape for this weekend."

websites: jaspernengines.com daveblaney.com

-jm-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , Jeff Green , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Robert Pressley , Jimmie Johnson , Elliott Sadler , Dave Blaney