KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Sept. 30, 2007) -- After lining up last on the starting grid for the LifeLock 400, Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team knew the only way to go was forward. And that's exactly what they did. After two red flags in a...
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Sept. 30, 2007) -- After lining up last on the starting grid for the LifeLock 400, Dave Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team knew the only way to go was forward. And that's exactly what they did. After two red flags in a race shortened due to darkness, Blaney and the Caterpillar Racing team took the checkered flag in 15th spot.
Blaney was the fourth of 47 competitors to take to the track for qualifying Friday afternoon. Because the No. 22 team stood 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. Though it was a nail-biter that came down to a battle between the No. 22 team and the final car to make a qualifying attempt, Blaney's speed of 171.114 mph earned the team the 43rd spot on the starting grid for the LifeLock 400.
The green flag waved for the start of the event Sunday afternoon, and Blaney made his way to 35th place before rain showers moved into the area. The rain prompted NASCAR officials to slow the field at lap 13. Blaney communicated to crew chief Tommy Baldwin that the car's handling was loose in the center and off of the corners. Baldwin decided to leave the Cat Toyota on the track while most of the field made pit stops. Blaney led laps 14 through 16, garnering the precious five bonus points for leading a lap. NASCAR officials then waved the red flag, as the rain fell harder.
Within 45 minutes, the precipitation stopped and the track drying process was complete. Blaney drove down pit road on lap 18 for four fresh tires, fuel and wedge and air pressure adjustments. The No. 22 held 41st place when the green flag waved for the restart on lap 19.
The adjustments made to the car seemed to help the handling, and Blaney began his ascent to the front of the field. He made his way into the top 25 by lap 42 and was running lap times as quick as those of the leader. By lap 49 of the scheduled 267-lap event, the Caterpillar Camry held the 20th spot. A caution flag on lap 61 enabled Baldwin to bring the car back into the pits for additional service, including track bar and air pressure adjustments. Blaney continued to move through the field and broke into the top 10 on lap 84, but he wasn't done. At the halfway point of the race, the No. 22 machine held the fifth position. Blaney made a scheduled pit stop on lap 145, and as he sat in the pits, the sky once again opened up. Rain again forced NASCAR officials to display the red flag. Because all of the competitors had not made pit stops, the Caterpillar Racing team was one lap down and in 28th place.
Drivers returned to their cars after a lengthy rain delay. The decision was made to shorten the event to 225 laps, and the race restarted on lap 156. Several of the competitors that made pit stops prior to the rain delay lined up one lap down, but in front of the leaders. All of those teams hoped for a quick caution flag to return them to the lead lap. As luck would have it, that's exactly what happened. After a multi-car accident one lap after the restart, the Caterpillar Racing team returned to the lead lap.
Baldwin called for four fresh tires and fuel during a pit stop under caution on lap 163, and Blaney stood in the 24th spot when the green waved on lap 166. The veteran driver was again able to easily make his way past slower traffic and broke back into the top 15 on lap 177. Blaney drove into the pits for his final stop of the day on lap 181 and returned to the track in the 22nd position. As darkness descended on Kansas Speedway, NASCAR decided to shorten the event further. When the green flag waved on lap 184 of the now 210-lap race, Blaney continued to hold the 22nd spot.
Blaney fought through slower traffic, but gave the team a scare when he reported to Baldwin that he might have a wheel coming loose. He worked his way into 15th place when the checkered flag finally waved. Just as he took the checkered flag, the left front wheel came completely off of the car. Luckily, Blaney was able to maneuver his Camry into the garage after the race.
The Caterpillar Racing team made up a great deal of ground on the 35th place in the owners' points standings, cutting the margin between it and the No. 21 team by 56 points. The team now stands 49 points outside the top 35 with seven races remaining in the 2007 season.