Dave Blaney drove the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet from the 39th starting spot to finish 33rd in the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. The Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) driver battled a loose racecar for most of the day as the Big Red crew worked to get the car handling better during the 267-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race.
Blaney posted the 44th- and 46th-fastest times in first and final practice. He was the fourth car to make a qualifying lap and posted the 39th-quickest lap of 30.228 seconds.
After rain postponed the event until Monday, the Ohio native took the green flag for the GEICO 400 from the 20th row. He drove the No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet into the 33rd spot by the competition caution on lap 32. Crew Chief Philippe Lopez called Blaney down pit road for a four-tire pit stop.
The No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet restarted 34th on lap 36. He radioed that the car was still really loose. TBR Owner Tommy Baldwin reassured Blaney by telling him that he was not loosing any time getting in the corner and just needed to work on getting off the corner. By the second caution period on lap 72, the Big Red Chevrolet was up to the 32nd position, one lap down. Blaney explained that he was struggling to keep the Chevrolet under him. The TBR team elected to stay out and save tires for the end of the race.
Ten laps into the run, Blaney told the crew that the car was struggling to roll fast in the corner. The No. 36 Big Red Chevrolet fell to 40th before green-flag pit stops began. He was up to 29th before Lopez called Blaney down pit road on lap 118. The team changed four tires and made major chassis adjustments.
Blaney returned to the track in the 36th spot and after a few laps, radioed that the car was better and just a tiny bit loose. By lap 126, he told the crew that the car was getting worse, even more than at the same point in the last run. NASCAR called a caution on lap 146 for debris on the racetrack. The team elected to stay out to get the wave around. Blaney restarted 35th, two laps down.
As the team planned to make a pit stop by lap 165, fluid on the track caused NASCAR to pull out the yellow flag on lap 165. Blaney tried to save fuel until pit road was open. The team decided to pit with the leaders so they did not run out of fuel. They made another four tire stop and chassis adjustments. Since the team pit with the leaders and was two laps down, they had to restart at the tail-end of the field.
The TBR team restarted 33rd. Blaney fell another lap down but held onto the position until an accident in turn three brought out the caution on lap 205. He told the crew that the car was now extremely tight. During the caution, he pit for four tires and more adjustments. Blaney restarted 34th, the only car three laps down. NASCAR called a debris caution four laps later. Blaney told the crew that during the run the car was tight but not as tight as the last run. The team decided to wait until the one to go signal to pit to try to have enough fuel to make it to the end of the 400-mile race. Blaney pit for four-tires and a small adjustment. The Big Red team calculated that they were going to be two laps short of the end of the event.
The Big Red Chevrolet restarted 34th, three laps down, on lap 218. Ten laps later, the team asked Blaney to conserve fuel. By lap 242, all the leaders had slowed while also trying to conserve fuel. Blaney finished the 267-lap race in the 33rd position, four laps down.
The 33rd-place finish kept TBR in the 33rd position in NSCS Owner Points. The team is now 16 points behind the No. 13 entry in 32nd and 11 points ahead of the No. 32 entry in 34th. The No. 36 is locked into the top-35 by 66 points. Blaney also held onto the 32nd position in NSCS Driver Points. He is 42 points behind Casey Mears and 11 points ahead of Andy Lally.
“It was a bit of a frustrating weekend after having a good run at Richmond,” explained Blaney. “Our team has got the short tracks figured out, but we still are working to improve our program at these 1.5-mile racetracks. The guys are working hard, and we’ll get there. The more we race at these tracks, the more they will have to work with. For where they were last year, we have come a long way. Each week, we get just a little bit better on the track.”
Blaney will pilot a special paint scheme next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to honor Richie Evans induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He will wheel the No. 36 Golden Corral/NHOF/Richie Evans Chevrolet for 300 miles in the Sylvania 300.