Blackstock tough as steel in Pittsburgh's regular season finale. SMITHTON, PA (Sept. 8, 2002) - After starting 15th, Roger Blackstock piloted the No. 1 Mancini Racing Performance Parts/Michigan Fan Club Dodge Intrepid to a seventh place finish...
Blackstock tough as steel in Pittsburgh's regular season finale.
SMITHTON, PA (Sept. 8, 2002) - After starting 15th, Roger Blackstock piloted the No. 1 Mancini Racing Performance Parts/Michigan Fan Club Dodge Intrepid to a seventh place finish in the Naturally Fresh Foods 250 presented by Racing Electronics at Motordrome Speedway, 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Blackstock completed 249 of the 250 laps and moved up to 6th in the USAR Hooters ProCup Northern Series point standings heading into the Four Champions Championship Series in Winchester, Ind., on Sept. 22.
Blackstock arrived at Motordrome Speedway with uncertainty about the track, having never seen it before, and even changed gears before the No. 1 took to the racetrack in practice. After running in the high 19-second and low 20-second range in practice, Blackstock turned off a lap of 19.012 seconds, 94.677 mph, to start in the 15th position for the 250-lap event. The considerable improvement in time was attributed to a right rear shock problem that was remedied before Blackstock took to the speedway.
"The track reminded me a lot of Toledo, where you drive down into the corner on the bottom, hold it there, then let the car drift out to the wall. You let the car roll a lot in the middle as well, but we were loose all day," said Blackstock about practice. "Then we were trying to figure out where we were loose and tight, where we could correct it, and be good all day. We found a shock problem just before qualifying and fixed that."
After taking the green flag, Blackstock worked his way up to 11th before getting stuck in a battle with fellow rookie John Gaunt. The pair battled side by side for a great deal of laps with leader Jay Fogleman on their bumpers. Catching a caution just before lap 90, both Blackstock and Gaunt remained on the lead lap because of their hard efforts, although their tires had been used to their limits. The caution was key in Blackstock's finishing position on the evening.
"I wanted to stay on the lead lap, and we did all we could do to do that," remarked Blackstock about his goals for the event. "I also tried to keep the tires under the car. A lot of guys were using their cars up at the beginning and I was trying to let mine roll more through the corner. I had to go slower to go fast. I couple of times, I ran the tires off of it, like when we were battling that 25 car and trying to stay on the lead lap. There was no give there, 100% bore, full throttle. Luckily we got a caution to let them cool back down."
Following a pit stop on lap 147, Blackstock was scored in the fifth position ahead of defending division champion Mardy Lindley. Taking only two tires, Blackstock ran the final 103 laps on extremely worn left-side tires. Even so, he was still within one to two tenths of a second of Lindley and the other cars who took four tires on the same set of stops.
"If we put four tires on, I think we could have held off the 01 (Lindley), the 18 (Mario Gossellin), and the 7 (Allen Purkhiser), but we didn't put tires on," stated the Shelby Township, Mich., resident. "We were looking towards the championship series. We didn't even make an adjustment the entire race. We were pretty decent off the get-go. There were only about seven other cars better than us. The race was pretty clean. A lot of guys used their heads. Hopefully we'll have a lot of green flag racing for the championship series for a change."
The next event for Blackstock is the Alan Kulwicki Memorial 250 at Winchester Speedway on September 22 at 1:30pm CT. The first event in the five-race Four Champions Championship Series, Blackstock is planning on fielding his new 105-inch wheelbase car in the event. It will mark the first time he will ever field a car below 108 inches in his career, and the first time he will run something other than 110 inches in 20 years.
"This puts us in the top ten (in points), which is where we wanted to be," explained an excited Blackstock. "Coming back, we hope to have the other car ready for Winchester. The body's on it, and all it needs is painted and done on the inside and it's done. The motor's also being refreshed this week. We took it out Saturday night.
"This year has been everything I expected," continued the 39-year old rookie driver. "After the first race, I kinda thought I had gotten myself into something I shouldn't have. It was almost like it was all kids who didn't know how to drive, but it improved afterward. After a while, everyone got settled down. Some of them were never back because they kept wrecking every week, and the guys you see now are the ones who survived. I didn't expect to be second in rookie points, and we might even be second overall."
Blackstock's seventh place run in the Naturally Fresh Foods 250 presented by Racing Electronics at Motordrome Speedway can be seen on SPEED Channel on Thursday, September 12, at 9 pm EDT. A total of two subsequent re-airings will follow; consult listings for times.