Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Dave Blaney on Going the Distance, Driver Development, More

For the first time in a long time, Dave Blaney is trying to run the distance in the Sprint Cup Series. Working with Tommy Baldwin Racing, Blaney and crew continue to seek sponsor dollars to keep the No. 36 car on the track as much as possible. But for Blaney, that funding search goes even further, as he is also faced with the task of raising money for son Ryan, a development driver currently running in the PASS Late Model series. Frontstretch caught up with Blaney at Bristol to discuss his fundraising initiatives, short-track racing and the season so far for the longtime veteran.

Bryan Davis Keith, Frontstretch: You’ve dealt with a tire situation throughout the weekend. Were they as bad as they were made out to be?

Dave Blaney: They feel fine on the car, they just wear out too quick. So they’re going to take… preventive measures. There’s no issue with them, I don’t think. I really don’t know how they missed it. Goodyear usually does a good job coming with the right stuff where you don’t have to do this (changing tires over the course of a race weekend). We’re going to throw a new set on for this final practice and hope that it doesn’t change anything too much. Slight bump in the road, that’s all.

Keith: Switching to the new compound, how much were you actually able to learn in practices on the old tire?

Blaney: We don’t know if we learned anything. It depends on how much difference the new tires make to the car. All we can do is tune to what we had and we’ll go from there. Everyone’s in the same boat here, so everybody’s got to do the same thing.

Keith: It’s the first time in a few years you’re at Bristol and going to run a full 500 laps. How has that changed your approach to race weekend?

Blaney: None really. We just spend more time practicing in race trim. That’s the only thing, really. I’ve run plenty of races here, I’m aware of how long and grueling it is, how big staying out of trouble is. We’re just hoping for a race with no issues. [Note: Blaney went on to finish 25th in the race on Sunday.]

Keith: You’ve got a sponsor on the car, Accell Construction, that’s expanded its involvement with the No. 36 team. The season’s off to a good start for NASCAR, with attendance and TV ratings up. Is that translating to your phone ringing more?

Blaney: Well, I don’t know. I think there’s more interest than last year over the entire sport, not just us. Hopefully it will lead to more and more. We’ve done OK so far, the team has done a nice job getting some sponsors on board. The more we run, hopefully we’ll run well and attract some more.

Keith: Your son Ryan just ran the first race of the PASS late model season down at Anderson last week. Did you get to go to that race?

Blaney: I did get to go. He ran well, didn’t finish really well. We kind of died at the end of the race. But he’s running well. He’s run two or three races this year and has done really well.

Keith: What kind of role are you taking in his driver development?

Blaney: I do all I can. I don’t get to go to most of his races, so if I can go practicing with him… I can help him some on the driving side. If I see him making a mistake time after time, obviously he’s not aware of it because he keeps making it. Pointing out mistakes like that, I can sometimes help to shorten his learning curve a little bit. But really, he has to go through it. He has to go through the experiences and learn what to do. You’re not on your own, but you’re close to it.

Keith: Looking at that, the sport’s still in a tough economic climate. You’ve seen that reality for years on the Cup side, but what has it been like experiencing that while assisting a development driver like Ryan?

Blaney: Most of the time, it feels like a very expensive hobby. But I don’t know. It’s going really well with Ryan. We’re going to continue to do what we can do, what I can handle. I try to raise a little bit of sponsorship money and I’ve done better with that for his car this year. We’re going to race him all we can, try to get him all the experience we can and see where it goes from there.

Keith: Taking a look at the travel schedule this year, you head out west for two weeks after Daytona. You get one bye week, then it’s here, all the way out west and then back to Martinsville. How demanding is that slate?

Blaney: Well, in my sprint car days I would drive every mile of that, so I won’t complain about flying every bit of it. It’s hard on the crews getting cars ready, it’s harder on the crews getting cars ready to ship them west all the time, especially when the rig doesn’t come back sometimes. That’s part of it. Everybody knows what’s coming, everybody knows what the schedule is. It’s part of our racing.

Keith: Over in the Nationwide Series garage, we’re seeing teams with less money coming close to running out of cars in their stables. The Cup Series has had more time to build up a stable of CoT machines, but what is the current status for this team regarding cars, especially after the trouble you had at Phoenix?

Blaney: We’re in pretty good shape. We’ve got a pretty good number of cars, and we’re constantly trying to get more. Most of our cars come out of the Ganassi shop, and whenever we can get another one we do. Right now, we’re fine. We did tear one up at Phoenix, but it’s almost fixed. As long as we don’t end up wrecking week after week, we’re going to be fine.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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