Talladega II: Dave Blaney preview

With the NASCAR-mandated 12-gallon fuel-cells replacing the standard 22-gallon Winston Cup Series tanks for this weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway, a wide range of opinions exist concerning how the reduction in on-track range will affect...

With the NASCAR-mandated 12-gallon fuel-cells replacing the standard 22-gallon Winston Cup Series tanks for this weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway, a wide range of opinions exist concerning how the reduction in on-track range will affect pit-strategy and race-outcome, and also whether the structural modification will in fact help reduce the frequency of massive accidents in restrictor-plate races at Talladega and Daytona and also improve the quality of competition.

With the 22-gallon cell, teams could approach the 42-45 lap range on Talladega's 2.66-mile track with a green-flag run, requiring a minimum four pit-stops during an 188-lap event. With that number reduced to 25-laps, teams will make at least three additional stops, pushing to over 300 the cumulative projected number of times the 43-car field will enter and leave pit road during the race.

DAVE BLANEY on the change in gas-capacity for Talladega--."I think what we've done for this weekend is move the high probability for accidents from on the track, to getting onto pit-road. We'll all be making at least three more stops during the race, but hopefully the field will also be a little more spread out from what we've gotten used to over the past two years--all 43 cars bunched together for three hours with no room for error at all. Two years ago at Talladega, I got tapped slowing down to get to pit-road and came down backwards at 150 mph. into the pit-wall in front of the #28 pit. We've just all got to be a little more careful with that end of the game this weekend. NASCAR's hope is that the pit-crews will play a little more into the outcome and that the total number of stops will help break up the field over the course of the day."

BLANEY on the mid-summer test at Daytona to explore changes for future superspeedway races--.."The test that we were a part of at Daytona was very promising, in my opinion, in terms of looking at some ways to accomplish e better on-track product for the drivers and for the fans at Daytona and Talladega. We didn't have time to really finish all the possible options that NASCAR wanted to try, but I'd like to see them go back to that direction of laying the spoiler way down, and opening up the plate to give the cars a little more response and give the drivers a little more role in how these plate races at determined. It would be up to the teams to decide whether to bring a downforce car--that would handle in the corners--or a slick car--that would be better down the straights--and I believe that would be really cool. It will still take some additional test-time for NASCAR to determine oif that's the way to go, but I thought we were on the right path with that whole line of thinking. Hopefully, we'll have a good, clean, safe race this weekend and we can go from there with what to do next."

* DAVE BLANEY and the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team enter the EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway ranked 21st in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver standings, two points behind 20th-place Robbie Gordon, 16 points behind 19th-place Kevin Harvick and 68 points behind 18th-place Bobby Labonte; in the April race at Talladega, Blaney started 21st (51.894 secs.) and finished 31st after being involved in the multi-car accident on Lap 165 that damaged half the field (23 cars); BLANEY has a best WC start at Talladega of 16th (5/00 & 5/01), although he started eighth and fourth, respectively, in two Busch Series starts (1998-99); his best-finish is 17th (5/01); the #77 Jasper team has a best-start of second (Bobby Hillin, 5/97) and a best-finish of sixth (Greg Sacks, 5/94) at Talladega.

* BLANEY's season-best qualifying effort is third (Richmond 2), matching his WC career-best at Atlanta (11/01); his ninth-place finish at Richmond last month was his third top-ten of 2002, matching his season-best at California; his career-best WC finish is sixth (Texas, Michigan 2, Miami-- 2001); he finished 21st last weekend at Kansas, improving from 34th to fifth in 42 laps before probable tire problems sent him sliding into the wall, damaging his car.

* After 29 races in the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, BLANEY RANKS FIRST IN LAPS COMPLETED (8,316 of 8,453/98.4%) AND RANKS THIRD IN MILES COMPLETED (11,137.991 of 11,308.12/98.5%), trailing only Jimmie Johnson (99.1%--by 70.255 miles) and Bill Elliott (98.9%--by 44.201 miles); Rusty Wallace is the second Penske-Jasper Engine entry in the top-five in both performance-reliability categories.

* CREW CHIEF RYAN PEMBERTON needs only $42,593 in winnings at Talladega this weekend to become the third-youngest crew chief in NASCAR Winston Cup history to reach the $10 million mark in earnings; Pemberton, 33 years, three months old, will trail only James Ince, who reached the mark at age 31, seven months this June at Sears Point (in 182 career starts), and Frank Stoddard, who reached the mark at age 31, eleven months with a second-place finish at Texas in April, 2000; Stoddard reached the mark faster than any WC crew chief (74 races) with driver Jeff Burton; PEMBERTON began his WC career as a crew chief 197 races ago with driver Derrike Cope (1997), the first of eight drivers he has worked with over five-plus WC seasons with the #36 MB2 and #77 Jasper Motorsports teams.

* Rusty Wallace leads the three PENSKE-JASPER ENGINES Penske-Jasper Engines entries in the 2002 Winston Cup standings in sixth-place (3,687 points--5 top-fives, 14 top-tens), 137 points behind leader Mark Martin; Ryan Newman (3,670 points) ranks seventh (a WC Series-leading 14 top-fives and 18 top-tens, including his win at NHIS 2) and is 154 points out of first; BLANEY and the #77 Jasper team rank 20th in the WC owners points (2,955 points); BLANEY ranked 23rd entering the 30th-race of the 2001 season (at Martinsville) in the #93 BDR Dodge.

-jm-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Derrike Cope , Bill Elliott , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Greg Sacks , Dave Blaney