HARTFORD, OH (April 19) - There are a number of variables that must be in place for a team to win a race. When a team is chasing an elusive victory, all of the cliches are appropriate. It's just a matter of time, the straw that broke the camel's...
HARTFORD, OH (April 19) - There are a number of variables that must be in place for a team to win a race. When a team is chasing an elusive victory, all of the cliches are appropriate. It's just a matter of time, the straw that broke the camel's back or the raindrop that broke open the floodgates... Following their recent performances, Dale Blaney and his Amoco #93 Team seem to be on the verge of winning their first Pennzoil World of Outlaws (WoO) "A" Feature. With this weekend's WoO race at Eldora Speedway, a track where Blaney has been very successful in the past, the chances of getting over the hump and claiming their first Outlaw victory might be as good they get.
"I'm really looking forward to racing at Eldora this weekend," said Blaney, a native of Hartford, OH and three-time Eldora Speedway winner. "We want to run consistently in the top-five every night and that's been our goal from the start. As long as we keep knocking out top-fives, we're going to have a successful season. I feel like, the more we race, the better we are getting, and I'm just looking forward to every race. The fact that Eldora is the next stop is just fine with me."
Blaney, who joined the WoO full-time in 1998, has been chasing his first Outlaw victory for the last three years after winning the 1995 and 1996 All-Star Championship. He's recorded 44 career All-Star victories and won the biggest race of his career at Eldora Speedway in August of 1998 when he claimed the Sixth Annual Historical Big One earning $100,000 first-place prize. He beat the best of the best on that August night and looks at the lack of a WoO victory in a tactful way.
"I don't put any added pressure on myself to get that first win," said Blaney, the 1998 WoO Rookie-of-the-Year who's just $17,000 away from reaching the $1,000,000 career earnings plateau. "In golf, David Duvall is the best guy who has never won a major, and maybe I'm the best guy out here never to win an Outlaw race. You can look at it certain ways, but I know I can compete with these guys. You've got to run up front and get some good breaks to win a race. Lately, we've been running in the top-five and hopefully, we'll be able to make our own breaks and take care of that victory thing too." Before the season began, Blaney put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed this year with Outlaws after being hired by his brother, Dave, who is competing as a rookie in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. This season Blaney is working with a new Crew Chief (D.J. Lindsey), new chassis (Maxim) and new engine program (Mopar). He knew it would take some time for everything to work well together and had hoped by this time in the season that the team would begin seeing the results.
"We felt like it was going to take some time to learn how to race these Maxim cars with the Mopar Engines," said Blaney, who spent most of the last five seasons in a J&J Chassis. "I've been really happy with our equipment. When the racetrack has been dry, we've been able to get the car locked in. As far as the Mopar Engines go, I've been happy with their performance as well. We put a new motor in last Saturday at Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL) which is a big half-mile, and qualified third. I haven't done that well there in the past, but I felt like we had plenty of power. I can't wait to have that kind of horsepower at a big, fast place like Eldora. The other thing is that our Goodyear tires are coming around too."
After 15 races, Blaney, Lindsey and Crewman Gene Jenkins are beginning to show signs of a solid team in the grueling World of Outlaws series. In the past four races, the team has finished fifth, seventh, fourth and fifth, and that consistency has pushed them from 11th in the WoO standings to sixth.
"It seems like the longer we race the more DJ and Gene get to know their roles of what they've got to do every day," said Blaney, "I don't think I'd trade those two for anyone in pits right now. I'm feeling very comfortable in the car. I know what the car is going to do every time I go down in the corner, and I haven't felt this comfortable in a car since probably 1996. As long as your comfortable in a racecar, you can run it hard and lately, we've been running hard and gaining spots. Everything seems to be going real well."
Blaney is showing the confidence he had in 1996 as well. That was a season in which he won a career-high 18 races, including an All-Star Feature at Eldora on April 27. Confidence is a big part of racing with the Outlaws and Lindsey and Jenkins are beginning to feel the confidence as well.
"We're getting closer to where we want to be," said Lindsey, who teamed with Blaney in 1994. "It's taken us a little while to get things going at tracks that for the most part are new to me. Now that we're going to places where I've been successful in the past (Eldora and Knoxville), I am confident we're going to keep running up front."
"This has been a great learning experience for all of us," added Jenkins. "Every night is a challenge and confidence is a big part of this sport. Dale is really confident right now and expects to run well every night. That kind of emotion rubs off on all us, and I think it will only get better from here."
The journey for an Outlaw win has been long for Blaney and the Amoco Team. That journey may or may not come to and end this weekend, but regardless, the team is starting to believe in each other. For the long-term, believing in each other might be the key to leading them to the type of season they hoped for.