BLISS DRIVES SMITH & WESSON CHEVROLET TO 11TH AT DAYTONA BEFORE GETTING CAUGHT IN LATE-RACE, MULTI-CAR WRECK DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Friday, July 1, 2005) -- Mike Bliss and the ...
BLISS DRIVES SMITH & WESSON CHEVROLET TO 11TH AT DAYTONA BEFORE GETTING CAUGHT IN LATE-RACE, MULTI-CAR WRECK
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Friday, July 1, 2005) -- Mike Bliss and the #30 Smith & Wesson/SKI Motorsports Chevrolet team saw their bid for a potential top-10 finish end just a lap and a half from the finish of tonight's Winn-Dixie 250 on the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval when Bliss was the unwitting victim of a multi-car accident.
In his first appearance behind the wheel of the Smith & Wesson Racing machine, and only the fourth of eight scheduled Busch series events this season for the first-year team, Bliss and the SKI Motorsports crew made the most of just 40 minutes of practice time leading up to this afternoon's qualifying session as rain washed out both practice sessions scheduled for Thursday.
Bliss clocked the 41st-fastest qualifying lap around the 2.5-mile high-banked tri-oval here but had to start the 100-lap, 250-mile race this evening behind a pair of past champions in the 43rd position. He found his way up to 33rd by a Lap-17 restart after pitting under yellow to begin work on an understeer condition he had been fighting in the opening laps. He was up to 31st when the second yellow of the night came out on Lap 55, made significant tire pressure adjustments and added a right-rear spring rubber when he pitted on Lap 58. He re-emerged in 26th when the race went back to green on Lap 61.
That set the stage for a strong closing run as Bliss was able to steadily move his way toward the front. He pitted a final time under caution for tires and fuel on Lap 80 and was in 21st when the race went back to green on Lap 83. Again, he was able to pick off car after car as the final laps were clicking down. He crossed the start-finish line in 13th on Lap 98, and working Lap 99 was almost clear of the cars of Randy LaJoie and Justin Labonte for 11th place when they were tapped and spun sideways in a bizarre chain of events that started two cars behind them.
Bliss, regular driver of the #0 NetZero Best Buy Nextel Cup Chevrolet, contacted the outside retaining wall but was unhurt in the accident.
Next up for the #30 Smith & Wesson Chevrolet program are back-to-back events at Bristol, Tenn., and Fontana, Calif., on Aug. 26 and Sept. 3. Nextel Cup regular Scott Riggs and two-time Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday are slated to drive those two events.
"It was great while it lasted. The Smith & Wesson team really worked and worked and made the car work best when it mattered most. It was a shame we had only 40 minutes of practice time because of the rain, but I'll have to say we made the most of it. Hats off to these guys for giving me a car I could drive from 43rd on the grid all the way up to 11th. I really don't know what happened during the incident that put us out. I thought I was clear of the two cars I was passing, but I guess they got turned sideways with a little help from somebody behind them and, unfortunately, we got caught up in it. That's the way it goes in these restrictor-plate races. We were a lap-and-a-half from a really solid finish. I want to thank Smith & Wesson for this great opportunity."
CHRIS LENCHESKI (SKI Motorsports President)
"I think it was a stellar job by (crew chief) Jeff Spraker and everyone involved with this Smith & Wesson Racing program to give Mike a car that he could drive from the back of the grid to a potential top-10 finish. We had very little practice time to really get the car dialed in before the race, so they made all the right moves to give us one of the fastest cars on the track for the closing stretch of the race. Don't forget that this team is just four races old, and to run like that out here against some teams that have been doing this for a very long time, on this track, says a lot about what we are building here. We want to say a special thanks to (Richard Childress Racing) RCR for helping us out with an engine package for this race. That really helped complete the package which turned out to be solid for tonight's race. We'll go back and hopefully come back stronger than ever at Bristol and Fontana and beyond."