Dave Blaney’s Sprint Car Renaissance

Dave Blaney’s Sprint Car Renaissance
The Buckeye Bullet is having fun back on dirt

dave_blaney_122215“I love these cars, I always have,” Dave Blaney says.

He’s standing in the Motter Motorsports pit area a few hours before the last night of the World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte in November, the team’s bright yellow No. 71M Sprint Car ready and waiting for its pilot.

“Yeah, I’m probably too old to be out here driving against these guys but I like it,” he jokes. “There’s nights where we seem to run really well, and there’s nights where we don’t run well at all.”

There is more than a touch of humility in that statement. Blaney had finished third in the A-main the night before, and just over two months prior had scored a popular win with the All Star Circuit of Champions at Atomic Speedway in Waverly, Ohio. Clearly, he can still get the job done.

The 1995 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion is 55 years old now, his career having taken him from Hartford, Ohio, to the top levels of NASCAR. He scored an XFINITY Series win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2006, and nearly became a Cup winner at Atlanta five years prior when a loose wheel foiled his hopes of reaching Victory Lane. He was also leading the Daytona 500 in 2012 during Juan Pablo Montoya’s now infamous encounter with a jet dryer.

Blaney’s stoic demeanor and on-track reliability helped make him a mainstay in the premier ranks of stock car racing for a decade and a half before his recent return to the Sprint Car world.

There he is nothing short of a legend.

Blaney’s 70 wins with the Outlaws tie him for eighth all time, and he has 49 victories with the All Star Circuit of Champions. He also claimed the 1983 USAC Silver Crown national championship, the Golden Driller at the 1993 Chili Bowl, spots on the throne during the 1993 and 1995 King’s Royal events, and the top step on the podium during the 1997 Knoxville Nationals.

Fans continue to recognize his accomplishments, and occasionally ask for autographs and photos, but the father of three is no longer the most famous member of his family. That distinction belongs to son Ryan – a bona fide NASCAR superstar. The elder Blaney is okay with that and still attends nearly half his son’s races, but it is now in the role of supportive father as opposed to mentor.

“He’s way past me giving him advice,” Blaney says of his son with a grin. “I still watch certain things if he wants me to, or if I see something I’ll mention it, but he’s doing just fine.”

It’s clear Blaney is now just racing for fun and feeding his speed addiction. He is a second-generation driver himself: He and his brother, the talented Dale Blaney, followed the path forged by their father, Lou.

Drivers have been testing the new dirt at the Dirt Track at Charlotte this week.

Dave Blaney in the Motter Motorsports #71 Sprinter. (Ross Wece photo)

Dave, long known as the “Buckeye Bullet,” has driven the Mohawk Northeast and Motter Equipment-branded entry for Dan Motter on a part-time basis the past two seasons, a program which fit the schedules of all involved. In addition to racer and racer’s father, Blaney is also a track owner, serving as a partner at Sharon Speedway in his home state.

Although he jokes about his age, it certainly hasn’t slowed Blaney, nor did a vicious qualifying crash at Eldora in the spring of 2016 that required a trip to the hospital.

He still says he’d like to race 50 or 60 times a year, and during the World Finals was behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified in the Super DIRTcar Series in addition to the Sprint Car. It’s a division he dabbles in, just to try something different.

Blaney has seen racing from all perspectives, but his take on the differences between the NASCAR world and the dirt tracks are clearly seen through the eyes of racer.

Dave Blaney (18) and Erick Rudolph

Dave Blaney (18) racing Erick Rudolph in his Super DIRTCar Big Block Modified. (Jim DenHamer pic)

“It’s totally different in ways, and then in other ways it’s still just racing,” he explains of the two disciplines. “There’s more people involved over there obviously with the teams themselves and more crowds a lot of times, but when it comes right down to it, you’re racing cars, the same as here.”

He says that Sprint Car racing has remained relatively simple in the last two decades, which most fans and racers would agree is part of its broad appeal.

“The cars themselves aren’t much different at all,” the old-school driver says. “The parts and pieces are nicer and better than they used to be, they run faster, but the basic car is about the same. There was a lot of interest in it back then fan-wise and team-wise and there still is.”

As it turns out, Dave Blaney himself is pretty interesting, too.

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