Blaney Finishes 30Th At Talladega

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Dave Blaney’s disappointing Talladega 500 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway was only improved slightly by the fact that he was not involved with either of the two huge accidents that involved a cumulative 33 cars over two days.

Blaney qualified 31st and finished 30th, one lap down to race-winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr, but avoided a big Saturday morning practice crash triggered by contact between part-time NASCAR Winston Cup driver Jeff Purvis and Bill Davis Racing teammate Ward Burton in front of a tight pack of cars as well as a final-lap catastrophy during which race-leader Bobby Labonte skidded down the backstretch on his roof and at least 15 other cars went spinning wildly in all directions.

Blaney was relegated to back-marker status when the team was forced to pit 10 laps earlier than scheduled for fuel under green-flag conditions and a caution flag fell five laps later, sealing the fate for the BP/Ultimate/Siemens Dodge. Ironically, Blaney’s lap-down status allowed him to distance himself from the lead-pack of cars in the race’s final laps and avoid the inevitable crash that ensues at virtually every restrictor-plate race that NASCAR holds for either the Winston Cup or Busch Series cars.

Reaction from drivers, owners and crews was violent to the restrictions placed on drivers by NASCAR in restrictor-plate competition and the predictable death-defying result following the grinding finish to the event.

#93 Car Owner Bill Davis said "it’s the same as it’s always been. It’s ridiculous. I think we ought to refuse to do it (restrictor-plate racing at Talladega and Daytona). There’s something that can be done so the drivers don’t have to put themselves at that kind of risk. That’s what they’ve got to do on the last laps. They can’t sit there.

"I don’t have any respect for those guys that stayed in the back of the pack all day and then drove up to the front at the end. That stinks. There’s no way this is right. We all worked real hard down here at the test in August trying to make something happen. If they can’t fix it, then fix the race-track. We don’t race at North Wilkesboro and Nashville anymore. Let’s fix the race track. It needs repaving anyway. Daytona needs repaving. Cut the banking down and make a big Charlotte out of it. We’ve all spent so much money on restrictor-plate cars and motors and at the wind-tunnel. The owners have absorbed all that expense all the years. Not NASCAR needs to fix the tracks that they own."

Eighteenth-place finisher Burton, Blaney’s BDR teammate and a contender until the last-lap chaos, said "I hope they’re (NASCAR) is proud of themselves. We came down here and tested. A lot of us learned something, but they obviously didn’t learn anything. They must have been a different test than we were at. If this is racing, they can have it and I think everybody in the garage will say that.

"It’s ridiculous. If they want us to run that kind of race, make the track twice as wide. Then maybe we’d have a place to pass. There’s nowhere to go. When the cars are three-wide, there’s nowhere to go. I knew we’d never make it back to the start/finish line woith two to go. With what was going on in front of me, I knew what was going to happen. What do I do? I can’t back off. I just sit there and see if I get through it or not. If they (NASCAR) take a ride in my seat, they’d find a way to fix this kind of racing."

Surviving the front-pack crash to complete the top-five behind Earnhardt were Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Bobby Hamilton, who appeared to initiate the last-lap incident with his contact with Labonte’s #18 Pontiac. NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Jef Gordon survived the crash with minor damage to finish seventh and expand his point lead over Ricky Rudd to 395 points with five races remaining.

Blaney dropped to 24th in the WC driver’s point standings, 41 points behind Terry Labonte and 81 points behind Steve Park, sidelined for the season with injuries. The #93 Amoco/Siemens team dropped to 27th in the WC team point standings, 140 points behind the #33 Andy Petree Racing Team in 25th. Burton remains 16th in the WC driver’s standings and the #22 CAT team remains 17th in the WC team standings entering this weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.

WC Qualifying at Phoenix is scheduled for Friday, October 26 at 1:30 p.m. MDT with the 500 kilometer race scheduled for Sunday, October 28 at 12:30 p.m. MST. Busch Series qualifying is scheduled for Thursday, October 25 at 1 p.m. MDT with the Busch race scheduled for Saturday, October 27 at 12 noon MDT. All events from PIR will be telecast by the NBC Networks (NBC, TNT, CNN-SI) and both races will be broadcast by Motor racing Network (MRN) on radio.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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