By Tommy Baldwin Racing
Solid Run Ends in Disappointment for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Sonoma
Dave Blaney finished 31st in the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet
Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) driver Dave Blaney finished 31st in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. Blaney drove the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet from the 36th starting spot to a race-high fifth. He was in the 11th position when he was spun with 16 laps to go. The spin relegated the team to the 31st-place finish. TBR held onto the 32nd spot in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Owner Points.
Blaney and the TBR team were happy with the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet right off the truck. The Hartford, Ohio native posted the 29th fastest time in the first practice with a fast lap of 91.259 seconds. He followed up practice by driving a lap of 91.214 seconds for qualifying, giving Blaney the 36th starting spot for his 21st career-road course start. The team went out for two practice sessions on Saturday and posted the 33rd and 35th fastest times of 90.566 seconds and 90.092 seconds.
Blaney took the green flag in the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet from the 36th position. He radioed that the car had a small side bite issue and was loosing drive by lap 15 while in the 32nd spot. With green-flag pit stops beginning, Blaney drove up to the 10th position before pitting on lap 24 for four tires, fuel and an adjustment.
By the first caution on lap 34, the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet was in the 33rd position, and Blaney radioed that the car felt better at the beginning of the run but after a few laps would fall off quickly. Crew chief Tommy Baldwin called Blaney down pit road for a four-tire pit stop and a rubber adjustment. The field restarted on lap 37, but two laps later, the field slowed again for a multi-car incident in turn 11. The Big Red Chevrolet stayed out and restarted 22nd on lap 42.
By lap 45, Blaney radioed that his Chevrolet was loosing the backend and forward grip while running in the top-25. On lap 47, the team made another four-tire pit stop and rubber adjustment under yellow-flag conditions. The Buckeye Bullet restarted 32nd and worked his way to the 26th spot by lap 57.
The yellow flag was displayed again on lap 61, and Blaney radioed that the rubber adjustment helped the Big Red Chevrolet turn but it was still loose in both right and left turns. The TBR team made a four-tire pit stop and air pressure adjustment. The No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet restarted 26th on lap 65. As the field began green-flag pit stops, the TBR team waited to pit until lap 83 in order to have enough fuel to finish the race with a green-white-checker finish. Blaney gave up the fifth position to make the team’s final pit stop.
The No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet rejoined the field in the 30th position. The final caution of the race fell on lap 88 with Blaney in the 29th position. With most teams unable to finish the race with their fuel, majority of the teams pit while the TBR team stayed out.
On lap 92, the Big Red Chevrolet restarted 10th. Blaney fell back to 11th before Marcos Ambrose spun the No. 36 in the corner. Blaney kept the Chevrolet off the wall and avoided other cars. He got back to speed and joined the field as the last car on the lead lap in the 33rd position. Blaney gained two more spots and crossed the finish line in the 31st position.
The 31st-place finish allowed the No. 36 to keep the 32nd position in NSCS Owner Points. The team now sits 28 points out of 31st and 43 points ahead of 36th. Blaney also held onto the 31st position in the NSCS Driver Points. He is 43 points behind David Gilliland in 30th and 15 points ahead of Casey Mears in 32nd.
“I thought the weekend went okay. I didn’t get a very good qualifying lap; I thought the car was better than that. We were fairly happy with the car in the race. We could run well early in the run but the tires slowed down a lot throughout the run. Early in the run, we were fine. The team played out pit strategy really well. We were sitting in a spot for a pretty good finish. We just got turned around, and that was the end of the good finish.”
Blaney will return to the track in the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet next weekend at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400.