The NASCAR Hall of Fame celebrates its 10th class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and while the spotlight may be on Jeff Gordon, there’s one inductee who is special to Ryan Blaney.
Asked this week who he would have on a four-driver fantasy team if he could choose competitors from any era, Blaney told NBC Sports that he would have Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and Jimmie Johnson.
Allison will join Gordon, Alan Kulwicki, Roger Penske and Jack Roush in the Hall of Fame tonight.
So why did Blaney choose Allison for his dream team?
“I watched all of his races and heard stories about him,” Blaney said. “He obviously came from a great racing family. He was so successful in the short time he was around the sport. He was definitely taken too soon. You never know what his potential could have been.”
Allison won 19 times in 191 starts, including the 1992 Daytona 500. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1987 and finished second to his father, Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, in the 1988 Daytona 500. Davey Allison died July 13, 1993, from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway. He was 32.
“I got to know the Allison family a little bit and just hearing some stories about him and how he was always one of the nicest guys in the garage and his skill behind the wheel was pretty amazing and what he fought through,” Blaney said of what stands out to him about Allison. “There was a year when he was almost hurt about every single week and he made a run for the championship. That dedication is pretty amazing. I just would have loved to have seen his potential and seen what would have been. I think he definitely would have been a multiple-time champion.”
2. New year, new address
Ryan Newman has switched teams before but he says his move to Roush Fenway Racing this season is unique.
“Everything is new for me,” Newman told NBC Sports. “Absolutely everything. Every aspect of what I’ll be doing from the manufacturer, the team, the car owner, crew chief, pit crew, there’s not a single person that I’ve really worked with, that I know of, in the shop throughout my racing career, which I think is a good thing.
“It keeps everything fresh. It gives me opportunity to build new chemistry and that chemistry, we all know, is so powerful in our sport.
“I know there’s a lot of work that goes into it because I’ve been in this position before but not to this extent. We’re building a new team. It’s not like I’m going into the organization that I left from where we had an existing team and I was just a plug and play driver. This is plug and play everyone and I think it comes with a lot of responsibility.”
What does he mean by responsibility?
“Just everybody has to do their job,” he said. “It’s like building that chemistry. Everybody on the team has to take responsibility for their 100 percent for everybody to have that collective 100 percent. I think of as a driver I’ve got to do my job, my crew chief has to do his job, pit crew has to do their job, Jack Roush has to do his job. Collectively, we can all do our jobs and still be a seventh-place car that day, so we have to figure out how to be better than everybody else, commit to 100 percent, deliver 100 percent and take responsibility for it.”
3. Adjusting to the new rules
Jimmie Johnson is in Las Vegas to complete the second day of testing with the new rules package today.
Before he left for the test, he talked about how with less horsepower, drivers are in the gas more. He told NBC Sports how he has used the throttle in the past to control the car and this will be an adjustment.
“I think it’s less natural for me,” he said of staying on the throttle more. “ I’ve always been better with more power and trying to control wheel spin. You think about my dirt days and we always had way more power than traction. So that environment is good for me. When you take power away, that’s just not the way I grew up racing. I always had way too much power and not enough traction. This, technically I think works against me.”
We’ll see how the seven-time champion adjusts.
4. A memorable experience (for the wrong reason)
Kevin Harvick has been in the Rolex 24 once, or so the records state, listing him as finishing 69th in 2002.
“My first experience was a bad experience,” he told NBC Sports. “It was kind of a last-minute deal. I qualified the car and got to practice and got all the way up to the race. Whoever was driving first, it wound up blowing up, so I never actually got to participate in the race.
“I would say that that door is not closed (to running in that race again). I wouldn’t say that it’s high on the priority list currently at this particular time just because If I ever go do it again … I want to be in the fastest class because I don’t want to have to look at my mirror all day because it’s definitely not something that I would be looking forward to do.
“(Competing in that race) would definitely be something that would be interesting if the right opportunity came about but not something I’m actively seeking.”
5. One final weekend
This marks the final weekend before Cup cars are on track. Teams take to the track Feb. 9 for practice for the Clash and for Daytona 500 qualifying. The Clash is Feb. 10.