If he walked through your door, you would be startled by the unfamiiar face. When he strolls through airports, it is probably only the hard core NASCAR fan or a World of Outlaws racing fan who would recognize him- a great candidate for What’s My Line? For those who love the under dog, Dave Blaney is something of a folk icon after finishing third at Talladega. For kids whose folks dine out at Golden Corral, the 49-year old is something of a Santa Claus, because as the fans know from his rear signage, kids eat free at Blaney’s sponsor with a top ten. Heck, it was practically a win for all!
If there’s one good thing about Talladega, is it gives the lesser lights a chance to shine. Here’s a guy who has never won a Sprint Cup race, toiling in virtual anonymity for a one-car, one-time “start ‘n’ park” operation, getting a little post-race spotlight. Prior to Sunday, Blaney and his 36 car was the punch line for Kevin Harvick’s wise crack at a prior Talladega race when the two were paired up before events in the race pushed him further back in the pack in the end.What transpired Sunday would likely never happen at Texas or Michigan, unless you took out about half the field.
The reality of it is the team owned by one-time Ward Burton crew chief Tommy Baldwin is scratching out an existence at stock car auto racing’s top level. In baseball terms, they are the Oakland A’s or Florida Marlins. Seemingly at the speed of a Ford Model T, TBR makes slow, steady steps forward, but let’s be honest, the organization will have to make a quantum leap forward in funding (hey, has Tommy ever considered looking up Mark Cuban?) to even begin to make the likes of Rick Hendrick or Jack Roush nervous.
Given this knowledge, it’s sweet to see Blaney and Baldwin sharing the spotlight with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton. How fitting is it that he gets drafting help from NASCAR upstart Brad Keselowski, someone who few folks thought would be in the position of prominence he’s in today. If you buy into karma, Bad Brad scored tons of it at the site of his first career Cup victory.
We can only dream this leads to bigger and better things. The more likely scenario has Tommy Baldwin Racing back in their “Chase” to be in the Top 35 in owner’s points, and Blaney returns to his customary role of being that dirt tracker (and track owner) beloved in the mid-west and scarcely known to the masses.
It surely would be an awesome story if this dog had his day and a got win- though a top five at this level of competition feels like one. It’s the Dave Blaneys and the Tommy Baldwins of NASCAR that are endearing to the fan. In a way, they make us feel like, if they can succeed so can we.
Dave Blaney photo courtesy of plstt
Other articles by Jim McCoy include: