|Last updated: 6/27/04 3:33 PM|
|Last updated: 6/27/04 3:33 PM|
Published: Thu, Jun 24, 2004
The Hartford native's part-time days are over, at least for now.
HARTFORD Dave Blaney will be racing at Sharon Speedway this weekend, but this time, his break from the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit isn't under a cloud of uncertainty.
Now that Blaney is with Richard Childress Racing, the 41-year-old Hartford native's gaps between races won't be due to lack of sponsorship. In fact, there won't be any gaps, at least until mid-August.
"We'll go at least through July and half of August, I think through the Indianapolis race," he said of the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 8. "Then I think we'll sit down and decide if everything's going well if they want to continue."
Blaney's good fortune developed in June.
"Childress was looking to replace a driver and I was available. I had to walk away from the No. 23 car which I really didn't want to do, but you just couldn't pass up the opportunity."
The No. 23 was with Bill Davis Racing, a team Blaney had been faithful to most of his Winston/Nextel Cup career.
"We tried doing the best we could this year with a limited schedule with BDR, then this came up with Childress."
Blaney won't be in his newest Nextel ride Childress' No. 30 AOL Chevy this weekend because another driver was already committed to race in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, Calif.
"They already had the driver scheduled before this deal came up with me. They'd already tested with him and already got prepared for it, so they were just going to honor that."
That's why Blaney is back in Hartford to race Saturday night at the speedway he co-owns.
He returns to action for the Pepsi 400 in Daytona Beach on July 3.
With Davis, Blaney's week-to-week rides were uncertain.
After his first stint with BDR (1999-2001) and his departure from Jasper Motorsports at the end of 2003, Blaney had discussions with Childress.
"I'd known him and actually talked to him right after the Jasper deal fell apart, but there wasn't anything available at that time. This time they were just looking for a guy, so they stuck me in there and gave me a try."
Blaney's first outing with RCR was in the Pocono 500 (29th), followed by a 15th-place finish in the Michigan 400.
In fact, he had the best finish of Childress' three cars.
"Robby Gordon got in a wreck early and damaged his car and Kevin Harvick had a little trouble right at the end and he had to back off a little bit and got caught slowing down. I ran OK at Michigan nothing great. We wrecked a car on Friday and struggled getting going fast on Saturday. We were just a little off Sunday, but we hung in there and got a decent finish out of it."
Harvick and Robby Gordon are Childress' other drivers - Harvick in No. 29 and Gordon in No. 31. All are Chevys.
Because of his new association with a team with bigger resources, there is new pressure.
"It's probably the best position I've been in since coming up to Cup," Blaney said. "RCR certainly has a great sponsor [AOL] and they've got a huge amount of resources and good people. It's a very good team all-around. We'll make it work out."
Blaney said his loyalty to BDR was tempered by an understanding with the owner.
"I'd love to race for Bill Davis. We tried and tried to run enough to get a sponsor. Trying to get a sponsor for 2005 was the main goal. But I think he knew all along that if I got a good opportunity, I was going to have to look at it.
"And if he got a good opportunity say a good driver that brought him a sponsor he was going to have to look at putting them in the #23 car.
"So, we both knew it all along. We tried to make it work and I regret that, right now, it's not working and you never know what will go on in the future. But the Davises are great people."
With his smorgasbord of rides in the Nextel, Busch and even the Craftsman Truck series, Blaney puts behind Dodges, Fords and even Toyotas.
"Anymore, there's not that much difference in the cars. Everything's pretty close. It's just how the team fine-tunes them. It comes down to the help that the manufacturer will give the team as far as financial, technical and wind-tunnel time. Childress gets a lot of help from Chevrolet, so they're strong all the way around."
After being part-time through 16 of Nextel's 36-race schedule, Blaney feels invigorated.
"For sure," he said. "In my career, I've never had many times when I didn't know who I was going to drive for or what my plans were. So it's just different for me.
"It's not a great feeling, but, in another way, it gives you a chance to prove yourself and to prove what you can do and see what kind of opportunity can come along.
"Getting the job is the small part, keeping it is the big part. You can't ask for anything more than the chance to get a good shot. Now we have to make the most of it."