INDIANAPOLIS (July 29, 2007) -- Standing just outside the top 35 in owners' points, Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team headed into Sunday's event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with one thing on their minds: leaving the famed racing...
INDIANAPOLIS (July 29, 2007) -- Standing just outside the top 35 in owners' points, Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team headed into Sunday's event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with one thing on their minds: leaving the famed racing venue locked into next weekend's race. After solidly qualifying for the Allstate 400 Saturday evening, Blaney drove to a ninth-place finish, the team's best finish of the season thus far.
Rain showers washed out both practice sessions Friday, and NASCAR officials decided to push back qualifying, which was scheduled for Saturday morning, to that evening. Blaney was the 35th of 49 competitors to take to the track for his qualifying run. Because the No. 22 Bill Davis Racing team remained just outside the top 35 in the owners' point standings, it was up to Blaney to drive his Toyota Camry solidly into the starting lineup. Blaney posted a speed of 181.057 mph during his one-lap run and was set to line up in the 27th spot on the starting grid.
The green flag waved for the start of the event, and Blaney immediately began to make his way past slower traffic. Due to the limited amount of practice during the weekend, NASCAR officials called for two competition cautions during the first 40 laps, the first of which came at lap 16. Blaney stood in 23rd place when the yellow flag waved, and crew chief Tommy Baldwin called his driver into the pits for right side tires and fuel. Blaney returned to the track in the 18th spot.
Blaney continued on his quest for the front of the field and broke into the top 15 on lap 30 of the 160-lap event. He was in 12th place on lap 40 when NASCAR officials again waved the caution flag. Blaney drove the Caterpillar Camry into the pit area for four tires and fuel only, as Baldwin decided to not make any adjustments to the well-handling car. Blaney lined up for the lap 44 restart in the 11th position and made his way into the top 10 several laps later.
It was nearly halfway through the event before the Cat Camry needed even the slightest adjustment to its balance. A pit stop on lap 92 enabled Baldwin to make air pressure adjustments to the right side tires in an effort to free up the handling of the car, which had become somewhat tight through the corners. Blaney fell slightly through the field just after the lap-100 mark, and Baldwin called for additional air pressure adjustments during the next stop, which came at lap 126. Blaney broke back into the top 10 with 20 laps to go and communicated to the crew that his Cat Toyota was beginning to come around again.
The No. 22 machine lined up in the 10th spot for the final restart of the event on lap 141. Blaney overtook another of his competitors in the closing laps of the race, and when the checkered flag waved, Blaney stood in the ninth position. It was the best finish of the year for the team. In addition, Blaney gained ground in the owners' point battle, and though officially listed as 36th, the team should travel to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway next weekend locked into the top 35 in points due to the absence of the No. 13 team.
The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series will return to Pocono Raceway this weekend for the Pennsylvania 500. Qualifying for the event will be held Friday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon's race is scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. ET start. The race will broadcast on ESPN television, MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. The Caterpillar Racing team is scheduled to test at Virginia International Raceway Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming road-course event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.