Blaney Finishes 33Rd In Richmond

Dave Blaney and Amoco Ultimate Team 93 fought back from a dismal qualifying effort, then saw their evening go up in smoke at the season's first night race at Richmond International Raceway.

After qualifying 39th and taking the field's second provisionla starting spot (38th), Blaney drove the #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge into the middle teens just prior to his first full pit-stop on Lap 110. Through the race's second quarter, Blaney settled in in the low 20's, having gone a lap down to streaking leader Rusty Wallace, the eventual third-place finisher behind race-winner Tony Stewart and runner-up Jeff Gordon.

But 11 laps after a bunched-up restart on Lap 221, Blaney was surrounded by the smoke from a front-stretch spin involving Michael Waltrip, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott and Bobby Hamilton and suffered a flat right-front tire and damage in the ensuing melee to avoid the wreck.

Despite best efforts by Crew Chief Doug Randolph and the team to repair the car's tracking, Blaney fought handling problems throughout the race's second half before cutting a right-front tire with less than six miles remaining, slamming into the Turn 4 wall and severely damaging the #93 Amoco Dodge. Blaney was unhurt and finished 33rd, 12 laps down to Stewart. BDR teammate Ward Burton, returning after a bruising crash at California that left him dizzy and sore, also fought an ill-handling car for much of the race's 400 laps, struggling home 21st.

For most of the qualifying day at RIR, Blaney and Randolph puzzled at thir car's status as one of the slowest of the 46 entries, using a wide spectrum of shocks and springs in an unsuccessful attempt to affect a change in the car's attitude in the tight corners at Richmond. Blaney's qualifying lap was over a half-second slower than the pole speed of Mark Martin.

But during preparation for final NASCAR inspections on raceday, Randolph discovered an irregular weight con figuration deep in the car's center near the drive-shaft more suited to road-course "right-and-left" turns racing than high-banked short-track competition. After making the sweeping changes, Blaney's car appeared to be in line for a remarkable recovery before being swept up in the mid-race accident.

Also remarkably, despite the dismal finish, Blaney moved up one position in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings (to 28th) after the race at RIR, but surrendered more points in his quest to reach the top-20 in points by mid-season. Blaney now leads 31st-place Ricky Craven by only 25 points and trails BDR teammate Burton--who remained 19th--by 122 points entering the second of three off-weekends the Winston Cup Series crews have during the 2001 campaign.

Among the 10 teams and drivers making the transition to the new Dodge Intrepid for 2001, Blaney ranks fourth behind only Sterling Marlin (5th), Bill Elliott (14th) and Burton (19th), a trip with a combined 41 full seasons of NASCAR Winston Cup Series experience.

In the Busch Series race at RIR, BDR rookie Scott Wimmer benefitted from creative pit strategy to post his second top-ten finish of the season(seventh) and move into the top ten in the NASCAR Busch Series standings, 118 points behind sixth-place Jeff Purvis entering the back-to-back events at New Hampshire and Nazareth while the WC teams take two weeks off from points races before returning for the Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day weekend.

In two weeks, Dave Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens team will join other non-winners in the The Winston Open at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, preliminary race for the 17th annual The Winston invitational non-points races for winners on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit.

The multi-segment Winston consists of a minimum of 20 cars whose drivers and/or owners have won a race during the previous sreason, any WC championship or The Winston within the previous five years plus the drivers transferring in from The 2001 Winston Open and Winston No Bull Sprint to fill the final two positions in the field.

Practice for both The Winston and The Winston Open cars is scheduled for Friday, May 18 at LMS, alternating throughout the afternoon until qualifying for Open cars (7 p.m.EDT) and main-event qualifiers (8 p.m. EDT). The Winston Open is scheduled for Saturday night, May 19 at 7:45 p.m. EDT with The Winston scheduled immediately following at 9 p.m. EDT. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the events on radio and the FX Network will televise the races.

Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 at LMS in Charlotte is scheduled for Thursday, May 24 at 7:15 p.m. EDT, one day later than in previous seasons with qualifying for the Busch Series cars also being pushed back a day to Friday, May 25 at 1 p.m. EDT. The 300-mile Busch Series race at LMS is scheduled for Saturday, May 26 at 1 p.m. EDT with the 600-mile Winston Cup race--the longest of the season--scheduled for 5:45 p.m. EDT the following evening.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2001

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