BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 21, 2007) -- Dave Blaney counts Michigan International Speedway among his favorite tracks, and he and the Caterpillar Racing team were looking forward to the weekend at the two-mile venue. After qualifying 17th for the...
BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 21, 2007) -- Dave Blaney counts Michigan International Speedway among his favorite tracks, and he and the Caterpillar Racing team were looking forward to the weekend at the two-mile venue. After qualifying 17th for the event, Blaney's Cat Toyota ran strong all day and took the checkered flag in sixth place. It was the team's best finish of the season and the best finish of all Toyota teams.
Blaney was the 10th of 48 competitors to take to the track for qualifying Friday afternoon. Because the No. 22 Bill Davis Racing 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. His speed of 186.393 mph around the two-mile oval was quick enough to earn the 17th spot on the starting grid for the 3M Performance 400.
Though both competitors and fans arrived ready for the race on Sunday, Mother Nature had other plans. After waiting through much of the afternoon for the sky to clear, NASCAR officials finally decided to postpone the event until Monday. Unfortunately, it was more of the same Monday, as persistent showers blanketed the Irish Hills area. NASCAR officials were once again forced to send the teams away and reschedule the race for 10 a.m. ET Tuesday. It would be the first time since 1978 that a Cup Series race would be run on a Tuesday.
The sky again looked threatening Tuesday morning. The field ran the first 12 laps under green/yellow flag conditions while waiting out the fog, in an effort to ensure the spotters could see the entire racetrack. Blaney had a close call once the field was let loose, as the driver of the No. 42 car drove inside of the No. 22 and spun. After a quick caution period, the green flag waved for the lap 18 restart, and Blaney held the 19th spot.
NASCAR officials called a competition caution on lap 32 of the 200-lap event, and most every team took the opportunity to make a pit stop. The Caterpillar Racing team was no exception. Blaney drove to the attention of his crew, and crew chief Tommy Baldwin called for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment in an effort to free the handling of the car a bit in turn three. After the first of several great pit stops during the day, Blaney was set to restart in 14th place.
Though Blaney communicated to the crew that the car's handling was still a bit tight, he made steady progress toward the front of the field. By the time the next scheduled pit stop occurred on lap 71, he held the 12th position.
Blaney remained in the top 15 for the remainder of the event, and Baldwin made only slight adjustments to the handling of the car throughout the race. After breaking into the top 10 on lap 175, Blaney never looked back. During a caution period with fewer than 25 scheduled laps remaining, Baldwin decided to leave the car out on the track, despite the fact several of the leading teams made pit stops. The Cat Toyota lined up third for the lap 181 restart. Blaney was passed by several cars with fresh tires, but he held strong in sixth with 10 laps to go. A yellow flag on the final lap of the race resulted in a green/white/checkered flag finish, and Blaney crossed the line in the sixth place once the race was completed.
Scoring its highest finish of the season paid off for the Cat team, and the points earned launched the Bill Davis Racing entry back into the top 35 in the owners' point standings. Thus, the team is ensured a starting spot in next Saturday's event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
The Nextel Cup Series returns to Bristol next weekend for another round on the high-banked short track. Qualifying for the event will be held Friday afternoon, and Saturday's race is scheduled for an 8 p.m. ET start. The race will be broadcast on ESPN television, PRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. The Caterpillar Racing team flew to Iowa Speedway directly following the Michigan event for a one-day test at that track.