Dave Blaney

April 17 in NASCAR: Johnson wins in four-wide finish at Talladega

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The early 2010s were a different time for NASCAR when it came to restrictor-plate tracks and it can be summed up in two words: Tandem racing.

For a brief time, the signature image of a huge pack of cars streaming around Daytona and Talladega was replaced by the visual of two-car pairings, usually teammates, frantically pushing each other for position.

The tandem era arguably peaked on April 17, 2011 at Talladega in a race that featured 88 lead changes.

With five laps to go in the Aaron’s 499, 10 groups of tandem partners jockeyed for the win, with Dave Blaney leading into Turn 1 via a push from Kurt Busch. Neither driver would finish in the top 15 after Busch nearly wrecked Blaney with four laps to go.

With three laps to go, the remaining pairings with a shot at the win were: Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle; Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick; Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann; Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin; Tony Stewart and David Gilliland; AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard.

With two laps to go, the parings of Edwards/Biffle and Bowyer/Harvick had a good advantage over the rest of the field. But by the time the field exited Turn 4, the Gordon/Martin duo had passed Bowyer/Harvick. They were the leaders as they took the white flag.

When the field reached Turn 3 for the final time, Johnson/Earnhardt had entered the fray. They were behind Bowyer/Harvick and Gordon/Martin as they entered the tri-oval. Edwards/Biffle trailed them.

Johnson/Earnhardt then dove to the lower lane in the tri-oval and started a three-wide drag race to the finish line that would become a four-wide finish at the last moment.

Johnson beat Bowyer by .002 seconds.

“I drove through (Turns) 3 and 4 and I’m like, ‘We’ll get another chance, I hope,'” Johnson told Fox. “They were worried about each other in the second and third lane and left that bottom open and we had some big (momentum) on our side and off we went.”

Also on this date:

1960: Joe Weatherly won his second race in two nights with a victory at Wilson (N.C) Speedway, a half-mile dirt track. But Weatherly wasn’t the first to cross the finish line. That was Emanuel Zervakis. NASCAR disqualified his win after they found his fuel tank was oversized, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.”

1965: Rookie Dick Hutcherson earned his first career win in a race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C) Speedway. He went on to win nine poles and nine races that season on his way to a runner-up finish in the points. He’d only compete in two more seasons, winning five times. He went on to crew chief for David Pearson during Pearson’s 1969 championship run.

1977: Cale Yarborough led 495 of 500 laps and won a Cup race at Bristol by seven laps over Dick Brooks.

1994: Terry Labonte led only the final 29 laps and beat Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan at North Wilkesboro for his first win as driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet.

2009: Greg Biffle led the final 106 laps and beat Jason Leffler at Phoenix Raceway for his 20th and final Xfinity Series win.

Jimmie Johnson hopes to compete in Chili Bowl ‘one of these years’

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Jimmie Johnson‘s car swap with Formula One driver Fernando Alonso last week in Bahrain got people’s imaginations running in high gear.

What else could the seven-time Cup champion try his hand at?

“I’d look at anything,” Johnson said after the car swap. “Anything is open. I’m far from done. I want to keep driving and hopefully I can find some good opportunities.”

Johnson’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports goes through 2020. Then the 43-year-old driver could have a lot more time on his hands if he doesn’t renew with the the only team he has ever raced for in Cup.

Johnson, who mentioned his interest in IndyCar road course races, also has had his eye on possibly competing in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, a six-night event held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in January.

The subject was broached by a fan on Twitter.

In the immediate wake of the car swap, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson, NASCAR drivers with dirt racing backgrounds, expressed their desire to get Johnson behind the wheel of a sprint car.

NASCAR drivers have a rich history in the Chili Bowl. Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell is the two-time defending winner of the event. Former Camping World Truck Series driver Rico Abreu won the two years before that.

Three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart won it in 2007 and 2002 and former Cup driver Dave Blaney won it in 1993.

Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have competed in the event every year since 2011 and Larson said earlier this year that “the Chili Bowl is bigger than the Daytona 500” for him.

NASCAR’s presence in the Chili Bowl will continue in 2019.

Alex Bowman, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, is the only full-time NASCAR driver currently on the early entry list for the event.

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Christopher Bell wins Ohio Sprint Speedweek race; Kyle Larson second

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Christopher Bell continued the NASCAR theme during Ohio Sprint Speedweek by winning Tuesday night’s Arctic Cat Circuit of Champions race at Sharon Speedway.

Kyle Larson, who had won two previous nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek, finished second. Former Truck racer Rico Abreu placed fourth. Former Xfinity driver Cale Conley was 11th. Former Cup driver Dave Blaney finished 16th. Former Cup champion Tony Stewart placed 24th.

Ohio Sprint Speedweek continues tonight at Atomic Speedway.

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Kyle Larson wins Ohio Sprint Speedweek race at Eldora

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A night after wrecking and heavily damaging his car, Kyle Larson came back to win round two of the Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek series Saturday night at Eldora Speedway.

Larson, competing in the first six rounds of the nine-round series with the Cup Series off this weekend, held off former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney late to win the A feature. Blaney fell to third on the last lap. Carson Macedo was second.

Rico Abreu finished 10th. Tony Stewart, who won the B feature, placed 16th. Kasey Kahne was 20th.

The victory is Larson’s first in the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions at Eldora. It is his seventh victory in the series.

“I made a mistake last night and it cost us a car,” Larson said, according to the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions report. “This really makes up for that. I’ve now won in every kind of car I have ever raced here at Eldora. That’s pretty cool considering I’ve only raced here like 10 times.”

Ohio Sprint Speedweek continues Sunday at Waynesfield Raceway Park.

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A Driver’s Drive: Ryan Blaney takes over the family business

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As a kid, Ryan Blaney never had any doubt that racing would be a part of his life. Growing up in the family business, he didn’t give it a lot of thought as he watched his father, Dave Blaney compete in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Racing was just always there.

Perhaps that is why even with only two full seasons under his belt, Blaney often has the demeanor of a veteran.

“Growing up in the sport and watching my Dad do it – you know, watching a lot of good times, bad times – you know, this sport is a rollercoaster,” Blaney said on Wednesday’s NASCAR America. “You’re not going to win every race. You’re going to lose a lot more races than you’re going to win. You have to learn to deal with that and move on from that, trying to figure out how to win the next one.”

And while racing was an almost foregone conclusion, success was not.

“Really not until you have some success … and that stuff until you realize you can make it at the Cup level or do it for a career. You just are never certain if it’s going to be enough or if you have what it takes.”

For more, watch the video above.