HARTFORD, OH - There's something about a second chance. This season Dale Blaney is making the most of his second chance as driver of the Amoco ...
HARTFORD, OH - There's something about a second chance. This season Dale Blaney is making the most of his second chance as driver of the Amoco #93 on the Pennzoil World of Outlaws (WoO) tour by scoring consistent finishes night after night and contending in the sport's premiere series. "There was a lot of pressure for us to do well this year," said Blaney, who currently ranks sixth in the WoO standings. "I put a lot of that pressure on myself, because I knew we had the equipment and crew to be competitive. We started the season with a goal to win races and finish in the top-five in the point standings. I knew it was going to take some time for us to gel as a team, and that if we could run consistent enough to stay in the top-ten early in the season, then we'd have a chance during the second half of the season." Following the turmoil surrounding the #93 team during the early portions of the 1999 season, Blaney walked away from a no-win situation and returned to a win-win situation last November when his brother Dave became sole owner of the team. When Dave formed DB Racing, the time was right for a new start for Dale. The team vowed to give the two-time All-Star Champion a chance to succeed against the best sprint car drivers in the business. "I wanted to make sure that he got an equal shot," said Dave Blaney, a former WoO Champion and current NASCAR Winston Cup rookie. "Sometimes things happen for a reason and with everything that happened in 1999, the best thing for all of us was to have Dale succeed this year." Blaney, who began racing sprint cars in 1990, got his professional racing started a little later than most of his competitors within the Outlaw ranks. The 36 year-old from Northeastern Ohio was an All-American shooting guard at West Virginia University. He was drafted by the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers and had a stint with the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) before knee problems kept him from becoming a career NBA player. The end of his basketball career pushed him into the family business. Not lumber, but racing. Dale's father Lou has been a standout driver in the Northeast since the early 1970's and his brother Dave made a name for himself in sprint cars before joining Bill Davis Racing and the NASCAR wars in 1998. Last winter, Dale assembled a crew of D.J. Lindsey, who worked with him in 1994, and Gene Jenkins, a longtime team owner from Pennsylvania. Blaney, Lindsey and Jenkins spent the month of January building new race cars (Maxim Chassis with Gary Stanton's Mopar Engines). It was the first time any of the trio had worked with this particular chassis/engine combo. Early in the season, it was easy to see that they had some work to do with only two top-tens in the first seven starts. A fourth place finish at Joplin on March 25 provided some much-needed confidence that two weeks later led to a string of seven finishes inside the top eight. Top five finishes at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Eldora Speedway put the team on the brink of their first victory, and a run from 17th to fifth at the inaugural Channellock Challenge at Bristol kept the momentum rolling. Three nights later, Blaney put the Amoco #93 in victory lane at Farmer City Raceway for his first career Outlaw "A" Feature win.
"I didn't know if I'd ever win a race again," commented Blaney, following the victory. "We've all been working really hard to get this first one, but we've still got a lot to prove this year."
With nine top-five finishes and 17 top-tens in 27 starts, the Amoco Team seems to be coming together at the right time of the season heading into the highest profile events. Eldora's King's Royal ($50,000-to-win), Lernerville's Silver Cup ($34,000-to-win), Eldora's Historical Big One ($100,000-to-win) and the Amoco Knoxville Nationals ($100,000-to-win) offer plenty of incentive from July 15th to August 12th, and the #93 has a lot of tradition on its side. A Dave Blaney-owned racecar has won four of the last six $100,000-to-win races including Dale's remarkable HBO win in 1998. Add to that Dale's success this year at Eldora (a fifth and fourth place finish) and Knoxville (fifth and eighth) and the possibility of continuing the big money winning trend is pretty good.
"Any time you get in the car and feel confident that's half the battle," said Blaney. "Right now, I feel really comfortable, and with the way we've run Eldora, Knoxville and Lernerville, I think we've got a great shot to do well in the next couple of months."
A second chance was all Dale Blaney wanted. He is on track to accomplish some pretty hefty goals this season, but more importantly he's proving when the pressure's on he can make it happen.
Last week, Andy Hillenburg continued his recent hot streak claiming the Pennzoil World of Outlaws "A" feature in Oklahoma City, OK. Hillenburg, who resides in Broken Arrow, OK, was the first Oklahoman to claim a WoO victory at the State Fair Speedway. The victory was his third consecutive following a preliminary and "A" feature wins at Heartland Raceway Park tying Danny Lasoski for longest winning streak of the season with three. Mother Nature took its toll on the annual Eagle Nationals in Nebraska last week. Rain on Friday forced track officials to push the program to a Saturday/Sunday format. Sammy Swindell dominated the 25-lap preliminary feature, but heavy rains pushed the Eagle Nationals finale to this Sunday (July 2). With Hillenburg winning on Thursday and Swindell's victory on Saturday, the tire battle of 2000 continues to be an issue. Hillenburg won Hoosier's 17th race while Swindell claimed win number 24 for Goodyear. This week, the Outlaws will compete on Thursday at Route 66 Raceway, near Joliet, IL, before traveling west for the annual Iowa Ethanol Classic at Knoxville Raceway. Saturday's finale will be a 50-lap race on the 1/2-mile oval making it the longest race of the season.
AMOCO KNOXVILLE NATIONALS - RACE RECAPS FROM THE PAST (1980-1985)
In the decade of the 1980's, three drivers dominated the world of sprint car racing and all of them claimed Amoco Knoxville Nationals titles in the eighties. Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Doug Wolfgang were the top three sprint car drivers and helped a relatively new series called the World of Outlaws become a top motorsports organization.
Steve Kinser claimed his first Nationals victory in 1980 and did so in a unfamiliar #20. Kinser's weekend got off to a tough start when he destroyed Karl Kinser's #11 during his qualifying night. Karl was able to borrow a car and enough components from longtime Knoxville car-owner Bob Trostle and put his motor under Steve to help "the King" claim his first Knoxville crown. The victory came on Sunday afternoon because heavy fog moved in on Saturday night forcing the officials to push back the event. Kinser took the lead on lap 14 and held on for the win ahead of Bobby Marshall and Tom Corbin.
Kinser's second victory in 1981 was in the famous #11 as he battled two-time Knoxville winner, Doug Wolfgang, for the win. Wolfgang led the first 12 circuits before Kinser took over the position. While Kinser took off with the lead during the final 18 laps, Sammy Swindell and Wolfgang battled lap after lap. Swindell made the final pass on lap 29 to claim second ahead of Wolfgang. It marked the 40th time in the 1981 season that the trio finished in the top-three of a WoO event.
In 1982, Steve Kinser again had to deal with Doug Wolfgang for the win. Kinser held off Wolfgang's numerous attempts to take the lead and won by only three car-lengths. Jac Haudenschild finished third, ahead of Brad Doty and Sammy Swindell.
After leading most of the race in 1983, it looked like Steve Kinser was going to make it four in a row, but an oil leak cost him the chance at win number four. Sammy Swindell challenged Kinser the entire race and when leaking oil caused Kinser to spin on lap 26, Swindell made his final move for the lead. Wolfgang followed Swindell to the finish line ahead of 1979 champ Ron Shuman, Tim Green and Jimmy Sills.
Doug Wolfgang piloted Bob Weikert's #29 to victory in the 1984 Nationals. Wolfgang became only the third three-time winner of the event. Wolfgang passed Sammy Swindell early in the race and held off Steve Kinser to post the win for a team that he only joined three weeks earlier. Swindell finished third ahead of Brad Doty and Jeff Swindell.
The Silver Anniversary 1985 Nationals was another stage for Doug Wolfgang to again show his stuff. Wolfgang led the entire 30-lap race and collected $25,000 by keeping runner-up Sammy Swindell at bay throughout. Ron Shuman, Jeff Swindell and Dave Blaney completed the top-five, but it was sixth place finisher, Brad Doty, who created the most excitement. Doty won the 15-lap C-Main, then came from the back of the B-Main and won it as well. He passed 15 cars in the A-Main to claim sixth.
NEXT WEEK: WoO Profile - Danny Lasoski, A recap of the World of Outlaws Iowa Ethanol Classic, and a preview of the Fargo event, and Amoco Knoxville Nationals highlights from 1986 - 1990.