Amoco Team Finishes 6Th
November 11, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Consistently among the fastest five cars on the track throughout the race, Blaney fell back to 27th after a steady start when he ran over the front-air-hose exiting after his second pit-stop--a two-tire stop on Lap 86. After snapping the hose and sending the air-wrench flying, Blaney returned to the pits to check for damage and get his additional tires, placing at the back of the 27 lead-lap cars.
Over the final 180 laps, Blaney matched lap times with two-time winner Tony Stewart—then the dominant car in the race—as he passed 47 cars enroute to his sixth top-ten finish of the season to join race-winner Bill Elliott, third-place Casey Atwood and fifth-place Sterling Marlin as the four Dodges among the top-six. Only second-place Michael Waltrip and fourth-place Jeff Burton broke up the Dodge dominance. It was the fifth time this season that Blaney has passed 40-plus cars in a single race, a significant feat at any track but a substantially harder effort on a single-groove flat track such as 1.5-mile the Homestead-Miami layout.
Ward Burton, Blaney’s Bill Davis Racing teammate, finished 13th, three positions ahead of rookie Jason Leffler, also in a Dodge, who posted his first career top-ten WC finish in his first weekend with former #93 Crew Chief Doug Randolph in charge of the #01 Ganassi Racing team. Ironically, Gil Martin, Blaney’s first NASCAR crew chief (1998-99), also posted a top-ten finish (ninth) in his first full week as crew chief for the #31 Richard Childress Chevrolet, with Jeff Green behind the wheel. Robby Gordon is expected to drive the #31 Cingular Chevrolet for Martin in 2001 at RCR with an announcement expected this weekend in Atlanta.
The finish also represented the second straight top-ten finish for Blaney at Miami, where he finished ninth last November, In his second week as crew chief for the #93 BDR team, Phillippe Lopez provided confident guidance for Blaney after the pit-stop mistake, adapting the car to the changing track conditions despite the fact that the Miami race represented only his second race with a Dodge product in his 14-year career. During one segment between pit stops in the final third of the 267-lap event, Blaney raced from 24th to ninth in only 42 green-flag laps, setting up his final charge toward the front.
“I kind of got knocked around one time and got put to the back,” said Blaney. “We didn’t run real, real good until the last two runs. The car was really good, but we just couldn’t make up the ground. We had a good run down here last year, too. We just had good handling cars here both years and handling is everything here. The car does all the work. It was a pretty good day. I wish we had a longer race. It would have given us a better chance to do something, but all-in-all it was a good day. Maybe one day soon we’ll get that first top-five finish. We’ve got three sixths this season, so we’re getting closer. I’m looking forward to Atlanta next week.”
During the pit-stop sequence that Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens crew experienced their problem, BDR teammate Burton also was involved in one of the worst pit-road accidents of the 2001 season. While exiting his pit at the head of pit road, Burton’s car was clipped on the right side by Atwood’s oncoming car and driven into the #28 Ford of Ricky Rudd, still getting service in the pit stall ahead of the #22 Caterpillar Dodge. Three Robert Yates Racing crewman and a NASCAR official were hit during the collision between the two cars, with all being transported to Homestead area hospitals for treatment.
The strong finish by Blaney provides much-needed late-season momentum for the #93 Amoco/Siemens team entering next weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In the March race at AMS, Blaney led 70 laps and dominated much of the event before being hobbled after two lug nuts were left loose on a tire during a pit stop late in the event, causing the wheel to fall off and placing him two laps down to the leaders after pitting for repairs.
And in six career NASCAR starts at Atlanta (4 WC, 2 Busch), Blaney has never qualified out of the top-ten, including a then-track record pole position for the Busch Series race in March, 1999. Blaney eventually finished second in the race to Mike Skinner, who was disqualified due to unapproved engine parts following the post-race inspection. The DQ gave Blaney his first NASCAR win until a NASCAR review board reversed the decision four days later.
Entering Atlanta, Blaney ranks 23rd in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings, trailing two-time WC champion Terry Labonte by only three points with two races remaining in the 2001 season. The #93 BDR team ranks 27th in the WC team standings, three points behind Labonte’s #5 Hendrick Motorsports team, 54 behind the #77 Jasper Motorsports team for whom Blaney will drive in 2002 and only 103 points behind the #33 Andy Petree Racing team in 24th.
In addition to the #22 and #93 BDR Dodges, Bill Davis Racing will also enter the #23 Hills Brothers Dodge for the first time at AMS, with future driver Hut Stricklin making his first start for BDR. Lopez, also slated to be Stricklin'’ crew chief in 2002, will move over to the #23 at AMS along with Car Chief Jimmy Penland while Robert “Bootie” Barker—crew chief for the #23 Jani-King Pontiac and Busch Series rookie Scott Wimmer at BDR this season—guiding the fortunes for Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens Dodge at Atlanta.
In the Busch Series finale at Miami-Homestead, Wimmer completed a steady, if not brilliant rookie NASCAR season with a fourth-place finish, leading the race until being passed by eventual winner Joe Nemechek and two others in the final eight miles. Wimmer finished in 11th-place in the final standings, just 26 points behind tenth-place series veteran Kenny Wallace and also finished second in the final rookie standings behind only first-year sensation Greg Biffle.
Wimmer finished his first full NASCAR Busch Series season with a flourish, earning top-ten finishes in his final three starts at Memphis (eighth), Phoenix (seventh) and Miami (fourth). He posted a career-best third-place finish in only his 11th career start in any NASCAR division at Nashville in April, and also posted top-ten finishes at Bristol (sixth-August), at Richmond (seventh-May), Dover (seventh-June) and Phoenix (seventh-November)
Wimmer also produced ten finishes between 11th and 15th and, in his last half-season, completed all but 22 laps (99.5%), improved a cumulative 204 positions in 16 starts and had an average finish of 14.07, including nine top-15 finishes in his last ten starts.