NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Dave Blaney

Dave Blaney

2011 Rides: No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet (30 races), No. 35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet (five races), No. 60 Germain Racing Toyota (Atlanta)
2011 Primary Sponsors: Golden Corral (19 races), Accell Construction, Big Red, All Sport (Martinsville, March), Disabled American Veterans (Charlotte, May), GetAuctionAccess.com (Michigan, June)
2011 Owners: Tommy Baldwin Jr. (35 races)
2011 Crew Chiefs: Kevin Buskirk (Daytona-Infineon), Philippe Lopez (Daytona (July)-Martinsville (October)), Tom Ackerman (No. 60), Joe Cipriano (No. 35)
2011 Stats: 35 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10, 0 poles, eight DNFs, 32nd in points

High Point: For Blaney and Tommy Baldwin Racing, the restrictor-plate events were undoubtedly the strongest races of the year for the team. Aside from the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, where Blaney was eliminated early in a crash, the No. 36 was a bonafide contender when the plates were in play. Typically working together with Kevin Harvick (who claimed that he was seeing Blaney’s TV panel in his dreams at night), Blaney was in contention to win the Daytona 500 and both races at Talladega.

Unfortunately, a late wreck in the Daytona 500 and a near wreck with a few laps to go in the Aaron’s 499 cost Blaney a chance at additional top-five finishes.

But it finally came together at Talladega in October, with Blaney putting together a full race to snag a third-place finish. That was Blaney’s first top-five result since the 2007 UAW-Ford 500, also at Talladega.

Without the plates, Richmond was by far the team’s best track on the circuit. Blaney finished 13th there in April and 19th in September after being relegated to the Pepsi Max-sponsored No. 35 for the night (Stephen Leicht, who drove Blaney’s normal ride, ran as high as 10th before dropping to 24th place).

Low Point: Blaney crashed his Accell Construction Chevrolet in practice at Phoenix back in February. The team was forced to pull out the car they planned to race in Las Vegas as his backup. Team owner Baldwin then fully announced their intentions to start-and-park during the race to protect the only good racecar they had left in the trailer.

Summary: Despite one obvious parking at Atlanta due to health issues, 2011 was a year in which Blaney finally got back to driving the full distance in most races. Early in the season, it appeared to be doubtful that TBR would be able to accomplish that. They went to Speedweeks in Daytona without primary sponsorship, having to get into the race on speed. But after earning the last spot in the Daytona 500, Blaney’s decent run in the race garnered a fair amount of exposure for Golden Corral, convincing them to sign up for what eventually became 21 races.

Their support, along with additional backing from Big Red and Accell Construction, allowed Blaney to run the full season with a minimum amount of parking. However, the team did have a hard time finishing races, which kept them outside the Top 35 for much of the early part of the year.

Once reliability was worked out, Blaney was able to run races to completion, but the team was not all that competitive at most tracks. The plate races and Richmond were exceptions to this rule, but the team was often outside the top 30 for weeks at a time. However, when Blaney was moved to the No. 35 to make room for Leicht and Geoff Bodine, he was able to maintain the same level of performance while the No. 36 often dropped off significantly.

Blaney did the best he possibly could given the equipment at hand. Finishing much higher than 32nd in points was not really likely in his situation, so he did roughly what could have legitimately been expected of him.

Team Rankings: N/A. For most of the season, TBR was a single-car team. However, when a second car was out on the track, Blaney was typically able to usurp it.

Off-Track News: During Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta, between the originally scheduled start time on Sunday and the actual start on Tuesday morning, Blaney developed kidney stones. As a result, he was too sick to legitimately race in the AdvoCare 500. A driver swap was arranged so that Blaney could still start the race in the Big Red-sponsored No. 60 for Germain Racing while Mike Skinner drove Blaney’s No. 36. Blaney putted around for two laps before parking due to a “vibration.”

Also, Blaney’s son Ryan won the K&N Pro Series West Casino Arizona 125 during the Sprint Cup weekend at Phoenix back in November. The 17-year-old racer has continued backing from the aforementioned Accell Construction and is looking to run a full season in the K&N Pro Series East in 2012. However, Accell’s wishes may result in Ryan moving up into the Camping World Truck or Nationwide series next year (Ryan turns 18 on New Year’s Eve).

2012 Outlook: Currently unclear. It is unknown whether TBR’s sponsors will return for next season. If Golden Corral were to return, Blaney would stand a decent chance at another round in the No. 36. The team is locked into the first five races of 2012 regardless.

For TBR, they need to figure out how to improve their setups at unrestricted tracks. Their performances in 2011 at Richmond can be built on, but the team was simply uncompetitive at a lot of other places.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: C+
2007 Grade: C-
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: N/A
2010 Grade: D
2011 Grade: C

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