TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 6, 2007) -- Before the first Car of Tomorrow race at Talladega Superspeedway, none of the 43 competitors knew exactly what to expect. Despite the change, Dave Blaney found that drafting skills were still quite effective.
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 6, 2007) -- Before the first Car of Tomorrow race at Talladega Superspeedway, none of the 43 competitors knew exactly what to expect. Despite the change, Dave Blaney found that drafting skills were still quite effective. After starting from the outside pole, Blaney earned a third-place finish.
Blaney was the 25th of 51 competitors to take to the track for qualifying Saturday morning. 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. Blaney's speed of 188.839 mph earned the team the outside pole on the starting grid for the UAW-Ford 500.
The green flag waved for the start of the event Sunday afternoon, and though it was the first restrictor plate race for the Car of Tomorrow, it was typical Talladega-style racing right from the start. Blaney was running 11th when he let the team know that the car was driving well, and that he was happy sitting right where he was. The first caution flag of the day waved on lap 18, and crew chief Tommy Baldwin took advantage of the opportunity to call Blaney into the pits for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments. The Caterpillar Camry returned to the track for the lap 22 restart in the 28th spot.
The field settled into one single-file draft pack in the early stages of the race, and Blaney remained inside the top 20 during that time. He made a scheduled four-tire pit stop on lap 57 of the 188-lap event. Unfortunately, NASCAR officials nabbed the No. 22 for speeding while exiting the pits, and Blaney was forced to pass through pit road once again. The team got a break when the caution flag waved four laps later, which allowed the Caterpillar Camry to catch up to the lead pack.
Blaney held 34th place during the lap 68 restart and patiently made his way back toward the front of the field, experimenting with both the high and low lines of the track. By the lap-100 mark, the Cat Camry was once again running inside the top 10. The team filled the car with Sunoco fuel and changed left side tires during a pit stop under caution on lap 115, and Blaney took the green flag in 15th place. The field settled down after the restart, but it wasn't long before things began to get wild once again. The usual Talladega "Big One" occurred on lap 145, and 10 cars were heavily damaged in the melee. Blaney made it through the crash scene without making contact with anything, but he made a pit stop for four fresh tires as soon as the pits were open. The No. 22 machine lined up in the 12th position for the lap 151 restart.
Blaney fell all the way to 22nd in the ensuing laps as he searched for the right cars to line up with, but the veteran driver remained calm and patient in the closing laps. He eventually decided to travel on the bottom line. Blaney stood 17th when the final caution flag of the day waved on lap 17, and he remained in that position for the restart. Blaney decided to stick with the inside line of cars with five laps to go, and it quickly paid off. Blaney held down fourth place with four to go and when the checkered flag was shown to the field, he stood in third place. It was the season's best finish not only for Toyota, but for the Cat Racing team as well.
Posting the team's best finish of the year also proved beneficial to the top 35 fight. Blaney's third-place effort moved the team past the No. 21 car and into 35th place in the owners' points standings. The team now sets it sights on 34th place driver Kyle Petty, who holds a two-point lead for that position.