Las Vegas: Mike Bliss race report

Key Motorsports Performance Concealed by Penalties at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Mike Bliss, driving the ...

Key Motorsports Performance Concealed by Penalties at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Mike Bliss, driving the #40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet, started 28th in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas. One-quarter of the field broke the previous track record in qualifying, making any accomplishment more remarkable. The 27th place finish while running matched last week's effort at Auto Club Speedway.

The car unloaded fast-off-the-truck Friday, taking 10th fastest in first practice. That feat encouraged the team that difficulties experienced the prior week would not recur. Bliss and the #40 Chevrolet maintained similar practice times during Happy Hour.

"We had a fast car all weekend," Crew Chief Gary Showalter said. "Our new engine performed well and the car gave us no problems." The unsponsored team fared better than 23 other efforts including Kenny Wallace, Danica Patrick and 9 other sponsored teams.

Rain and track-drying activity delayed the start of the race for over 90 minutes, and pending weather raised concerns about completing the event without an extended stay. At 6:16 PM Pacific time, the field was turned loose on the track.

A competitor scattered engine parts through turns 1 and 2 for the first caution at Lap 6. Bliss avoided getting caught up in another incident on Lap 17. Just 20 laps after the start, the #40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet was scored 21st and was by Lap 53 one of only 24 cars on the lead lap.

The short and still-wet approach to pit road contributed to easy sliding--and difficulty slowing. A pit stop under green flag conditions drew a speeding penalty at Lap 56. A second speeding penalty while entering to serve the first resulted in NASCAR exercising a rule to hold the team an extra lap. The team returned to the track 35th and three laps behind the next competitor. With no further setbacks the #40 Key Motorsports team climbed back through the field steadily.

Mike Bliss piloted away from a two-car tangle between competitors near the exit of pit road on lap 83, when sprinkling on the track resurrected concerns about finishing the event in one day. At the halfway point raindrops were reported on pit road, and weather drew a caution flag. Luck the race was not stopped and the #40 Key Motorsports team returned to earn more positions. Bliss deftly avoided three more one-car incidents and a three-car accident on lap 171.

"I feel very bad about the pit road penalties," commented driver Bliss. "We were more cautious after that and got no more."

Showalter followed up, "We may not have gotten an accurate (tachometer) reading during pace laps because of the conditions."

The "never-say-die" approach rewarded the #40 Key Motorsports team with 82 points in the fight for a locked-in position when 2010 owner's points become the determining factor later this year. Mike Bliss and the #40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet will return to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Nationwide Series' next scheduled event, the Scotts Turf Builder 300 on Saturday, March 20, 2010.

-source: key motorsports

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Drivers Mike Bliss , Danica Patrick