Thursday, February 20, 2014

CUP: Blaney’s Rough Week Ends With Withdrawal From First Budweiser Duel

Dave Blaney finished last in Thursday’s First Budweiser Duel at the Daytona International Speedway when his #77 Plinker Arms Ford was withdrawn from the event on Wednesday.

It was Blaney’s second last-place finish in the event, his first since 2002, when his #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford crashed after 9 laps of Race 2.  That was also the most recent time the number finished last in this event.

While the #77 car Blaney drove in 2002 was owned by Doug Bawel, the one he entered last week was owned by Randy Humphrey.  Humphrey has co-owned Cup Series teams since 2009, beginning with Phil Parsons’ PRISM Motorsports and continuing through Humphrey-Smith Racing in 2012.  This year, Humphrey came to Daytona as the sole owner of his own team, using Fords purchased from Germain Racing.

Humphrey’s team had just one superspeedway car for SpeedWeeks, likely because Germain’s other machine was destroyed in a wreck on the final lap of last fall’s Talladega race.  This would prove decisive on Blaney’s fortunes for the week.

On Saturday, Blaney timed in 41st and 35th in the opening two practices.  In Sunday’s qualifying session, Blaney trailed all 49 cars when he aborted his run before the green flag.  This meant he would have to not only race his way into the Daytona 500 in Thursday’s Budweiser Duel, but do so from the 25th and final starting spot in Race 1.  This put a premium on race setup for the two practice sessions on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, just a few minutes into the early afternoon practice, Blaney was trapped in the outside lane when Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano tangled in the tri-oval.  Blaney collided with the spinning cars of Ryan Truex and Parker Kligerman, completely destroying the nose of his Ford.

No drivers were injured in the accident, but Blaney was the only victim without a backup car.  He withdrew late Wednesday night, leaving him out of the field for the Budweiser Duel and the Daytona 500.  Blaney had not missed a 500 since 2010.

In the Duel itself, Michael McDowell lost touch with the lead draft early and appeared headed for a costly finish at the back of the field.  Midway through the race, Reed Sorenson had an unscheduled stop for what was originally reported to be a stuck brake pad.  The final results, however, indicate that a wheel bearing came loose.  Regardless, Sorenson was the only retiree from an otherwise uneventful race.

But stealing the next-to-last spot in the field was none other than runner-up Kevin Harvick, whose three-wide battle with winner Matt Kenseth and 3rd-place finisher Kasey Kahne was followed by news Harvick’s car failed post-race inspection for a track bar violation.  This dropped Harvick to the 24th position, moving Sorenson and the others up a spot, but leaving Blaney in the back.

Joe Nemechek and McDowell rounded out the Bottom Five.  Both joined Blaney among the five drivers who failed to qualify for the 500.

*Blaney is just the tenth driver to finish last in the Budweiser Duels more than once.

25) #77-Dave Blaney / 0 laps / did not start
24) #4-Kevin Harvick / 60 laps / disqualified
23) #36-Reed Sorenson / 20 laps / wheel bearing
22) #87-Joe Nemechek / 59 laps / running
21) #95-Michael McDowell / 59 laps / running

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