Blaney Home 32Nd At Sonoma
June 24, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
With only one Busch Series start at Watkins Glen (1999) and starts at Sears Point and Watkins Glen during his rookie Winston Cup season in 2000 as the only road course-style races over almost 20 years in the sport, Blaney showed that he had made great strides by qualifying 17th for this year's Save Mart 300, covering the newly-revised two-mile layout in a one-lap time quicker than noted road-course experts such as Rick Rudd and Bill Elliott.
But after holding his own in the mid-teens through the race's first 27 laps, Blaney was spun by fellow Dodge driver Sterling Marlin while negotiating the tight Turn 11, losing 15 positions before getting back in line. Blaney pitted three laps later, fearing a flat right-rear tire from the spin and the race's first caution flag fell while work was finished on the #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge on pit road, leaving Blaney a lap down to the leaders in 37th-place.
On the ensuing restart, Blaney remained out while the rest of the field made pit stops and the #93 Amoco/Siemens led the field to the green flag on Lap 37. For six laps, Blaney maintained his position at the head of the field ahead of race leaders Ron Fellows and Robbie Gordon--both road-racing experts in one-race opportunities with their respective teams--as well as Winston Cup points leader--the three-time defending Sears Point champion--and eventual race-winner Tony Stewart.
When a quick caution did not fall allowing him to regain his lead-lap status, Blaney yielded to the leaders and remained mired in the field until a missed shift sent him hard into the Turn 10 wall, much in the same place where a Happy Hour practice incident by Blaney sent the crew scrambling to repair the driver's side sheet metal in time for the 224-mile race. The #93 Amoco/Siemens crew made quick repairs and returned to the track, but finished one-lap down to Stewart, R. Gordon, J. Gordon, Rudd and Rusty Wallace. BDR teammate Ward Burton finished sixth to equal Blaney's season total of three top-ten finishes.
With the finish, Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens team dropped to 28th in the overall standings behind the #77 and #33 teams, each of whom replaced regular drivers with road-racing experts for the Sears Point race and finished in 11th- and 12th-place, respectively. The team now trails Burton, who moved up from 23rd to 19th in the standings, by 160 points but 22nd-place Mike Skinner by only 80 points entering the final off-weekend of the 2001 season for Winston Cup Series drivers and teams.
Beginning with the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on July 8, teams will begin a 20-race stretch of WC events that will cover four months and conclude with the season-ending finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Thanksgiving week. Qualifying for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona is scheduled for Thursday, July 5 at 8 p.m. EDT with the 160-lap race--the third prime-time race of the 2001 season--scheduled for Saturday, July 7 at 8 p.m.
In the Daytona 500 in February, the BDR Dodges raced well, but showed little return for their on-track effort, with Burton being sidelined (35th) in the multi-car accident in Lap 174 after leading a race-best 54 laps and Blaney (42nd) running as high as third but dropping out on Lap 135 after a rare valve-spring failure ended his day.
The Pepsi 400 also marks the beginning of race coverage by NBC and the Turner Networks, who will collectively be responsible for television coverage of both the Winston Cup and Busch Series for the remainder of the 2001 NASCAR season. Motor Racing Network (MRN) will broadcast the Daytona events on radio.
The Busch Series--and rookie contender Scott Wimmer in the #23 BDR/Jani-King Pontiac--returns to action after an off-week this weekend at the fabled Milwaukee (WI) Mile, where qualifying is scheduled for late afternoon (approximately 4 p.m.) on Friday, June 29 and the race scheduled for Sunday, July 1 at 1 p.m. CDT. Wimmer currently ranked 12th in the overall BGN point standings and second behind Greg Biffle in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings for 2001.