Blaney Finishes 18Th At Bristol

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With the possible exception of the four restrictor-plate races annually at Daytona and Talladega, no track puts more of a premium on strict survival strategy by NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers than does the Bristol Motor Speedway--the high-banked, high-speed .533-mile oval that annually hosts one of the sport's most popular races for fans.

Because of the narrow one-groove nature of the track and the subsequent high incidence of caution flags and anger-fueled accidents, most NASCAR drivers feel differently about the spring-fall doubleheader of races at Bristol. The latest nightime spectacle--the Sharpie 500--was another in a long series of demolition events in which single-file racing was the norm and better track position was achieved primarily by bumping the preceding car out of the way or into the wall.

Dave Blaney and his #93 Amoco/Siemens team came from the deep in the field (28th) after being forced to a back-up car after a practice crash, then hung on after a flat tire with less than 20 miles to go under green-flag conditions on the debris-littered track dropped him two laps down to race-winner Tony Stewart and an eventual 18th-place finishing position.

Neverthless, Blaney and the #93 Bill Davis Racing team continued their move back up through the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings as many of the other teams contending for a top-20 finish in the final WC point standings experienced trouble. The 16 caution-flags were four short of the modern-day record at BMS but created many problems for drivers like Blaney attempting to work their way through the field. Half of the caution flags fell before the one-third mark in the 500-lap race, sidelining 25% of the field for repairs by the mid-point in the 500-lap event.

After planning to run a special Mac Tools-themed paint scheme at Bristol, Blaney was forced to a back-up car with the traditional Amoco/Siemens colors when a practice accident damaged the #93 Mac Tools Dodge too severly to be repaired before the race. The team will run the special paint scheme again in two weeks during the Saturday night race at Richmond International Raceway following next week's event at Darlington.

But the #93 team did an outstanding job quickly preparing the back-up car for qualifying and the race, posting top-ten practice times in the final practice before Saturday's race. Blaney avoided the rash of early accidents and moved into the top-15 by Lap 150, where he remained throughout the race until the flat tire with only 35 laps remaining forced him to pit in the race's final stages. Luckily, Blaney dropped only to 18th in the running order as most of the other cars on the track had been sidelined for repairs and were more than four laps down or more to the leaders.

Stewart took the lead with 80 laps to go and held off rookie Kevin Harvick--the winner of the Busch Series race at BMS--and Jeff Gordon to take the win. BDR teammate Ward Burton--himself a victim of an early race "tap" oin traffic--battled from two laps down to finish 12th on a night when tempers were raw from the close-quarters racing and impatience in traffic by many of the competitors.

Despite his disappointment over a possible second straight top-ten finish, Blaney produced his best career finish at BMS and his first without being victimized himself in a fender-bending on-track incident. The 18th-place finish moved Blaney into 23rd in the WC standings, 96 points behind 22nd-place Jerry Nadeau and 204 points behind BDR teammate Burton in 18th entering this weekend's traditional Labor Day race at Darlington Raceway.

Qualifying for the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington is scheduled for Friday, August 31 aat 3:05 p.m. EDT, immediately following qualifying for the NASCAR Busch Series cars at 1:30 p.m. The Winston Cup race is scheduled for Sunday, September 2 at 1 p.m. EDT with the Busch Series race scheduled for the previous afternoon at 1 p.m. EDT.

Scott Wimmer enjoyed one of his best overall weekends of the 2001 Busch Series season in the #23 BDR/Jani-King Pontiac, qualifying 12th and finishing sixth on the lead-lap behind race-winner Harvick in the BGN race on Friday night at Bristol. With the finish, Wimmer moved up to 13th in the Busch Series standings, 187 points behind 10th-place Kenny Wallace entering this weekend's Busch Series race at Darlington.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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