The No. 35 Pepsi Max Chevrolet finished 19th
RICHMOND, VA. (September 12, 2011) – Dave Blaney piloted the No. 35 Pepsi Max Chevrolet this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Not locked into the event, Blaney posted the 34th-fastest lap in qualifying and locked the No. 35 Chevrolet into the Wonderful Pistachio 400. His normal Tommy Baldwin Racing crew, including Crew Chief Philippe Lopez, worked on the car throughout the race, and Blaney drove to a 19th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) event.
Blaney posted the 37th- and 25th- quickest times in first and final practice on Friday. He then posted a lap of 21.526 seconds to guarantee him a spot in Saturday’s Wonderful Pistachio 400.
The Hartford, Ohio native took the green flag from the 34th spot and drove to the 29th position by the second caution on lap nine for a multicar incident. Lopez called for Blaney to stay out, and he restarted 23rd. By lap 32, Blaney worked up to the 15th position and radioed to the crew that the car needed to cut better in the corner. He continued that the car was tight in the center but seemed to get better throughout the run.
When the fifth caution was called on lap 53, the TBR team elected to make their first pit stop, giving up the 23rd position. The team changed four tires and made an air pressure and trackbar adjustment. Blaney restarted 29th. He worked up to the 24th position by lap 100 and told the crew that some more drive off the corner would help the car. He also reiterated that the car was tight in the center and loose off the corner.
The lap 118 caution allowed for the team to pit again for four tires and a trackbar adjustment. The No. 35 Pepsi Max Chevrolet restarted 21st on lap 123. Fourteen laps later, Blaney radioed that the car was having issues and thought it may have a right, front flat tire. He stayed on the lead lap and muscled through until the next yellow flag on lap 154 with the No. 35 Chevrolet in the 28th position. Lopez called Blaney down pit road for four tires and a wedge adjustment. He restarted 27th on lap 161.
The team stayed out during the ninth caution for the No. 27 and restarted 21st. Blaney fell back to 25th before the next caution on lap 187 for a three-car incident in turn two. He told the Pepsi Max crew that the car was very tight in the center of the corner. The team changed four tires and made another trackbar adjustment. The No. 35 Pepsi Max Chevrolet restarted 26th on lap 191.
Blaney ran in the top-30 during the beginning of the run. Throughout the long, green-flag run, the No. 35 posted some of the fastest laps in the field. He drove up to the 16th position by the next caution period on lap 247. Blaney pit for four tires and a trackbar adjustment to combat the tight in the center, loose off the corner condition. He restarted 18th, and the car struggled to turn in the center of the corner and was loose off the corner.
The 12th caution of the night was called for the No. 31 in turn three on lap 286. Blaney pitted for four tires and a trackbar adjustment. He restarted 19th on lap 291 but fell back to 22nd. There was contact on lap 298 with the No. 9 of Marcos Ambrose that caused right, front damage to the No. 35 Pepsi Max Chevrolet and another caution. Blaney pulled onto pit road, and the team changed right-side tires while trying to fix the damage.
Blaney restarted 21st on lap 302 and was 20th when the yellow flag waved for the No. 00 and No. 33 on lap 310. Lopez used this opportunity to make the team’s final pit stop of the night. The team changed four tires and made a trackbar adjustment to help the tight center, loose off of the corner condition.
The No. 35 Pepsi Max Chevrolet restarted 20th. Once again, Blaney fell back early in the run but raced back up to 20th by lap 331. He moved into the 19th position 15 laps later. By lap 366, he fell a lap down to the leader, but the final caution on lap 385 for a single-car spin allowed Blaney to get the wave around and restart on the tail end of the lead lap. In the final 12 laps of the 400-lap event, Blaney held onto the 19th position and stayed on the lead lap.
The finish allowed the Buckeye Bullet to hold onto the 32nd position in NSCS Driver Points. He is currently 38 points behind Casey Mears in 31st and 16 points ahead of Andy Lally in 33rd.
“It wasn’t the finish we had hoped for after such a good run in April,” explained Blaney. “We worked hard during practice to find the speed to make sure we qualified for the show while still working on race runs. We came with the same car and same basic setup. We just couldn’t fix the tight in the center, loose off of the corner condition. I think getting both cars in the show and finishing in the top-25 was a big gain for TBR. A 19th-place finish was a solid run for us, and hopefully, we can continue to run around there week in and week out.”
Blaney will pilot the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend for the GEICO 400 on September 18th.