Dave Blaney: Latest vet at career crossroads
November 16, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
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HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- For a driver who is losing his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride after this season, Dave Blaney couldn't stop smiling when discussing his potential options for 2014.
Tommy Baldwin Racing announced Friday that current Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett will move into the No. 7 car next season, meaning that Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be Blaney's final run in a vehicle in which he's been a fixture for much of the past three years. The 51-year-old said he had no set Sprint Cup plans for next season, and that he might spend 2014 racing sprint cars and following his son Ryan's career progression through NASCAR's national ranks -- both of which appealed to him greatly.
"I would love to get back into sprint car racing a lot," Blaney said. "It's hard to do it part-time. I did it part-time last year, and you can't be that good doing it part-time with those cars. They're hard to drive, and hard to get used to. I ran good sometimes, I ran bad sometimes. But it's still probably the kind of racing I love most. I just grew up around it, and that part's very cool. But just as much, I'm going to love watching Ryan progress here, too. Got two good things, so that's good."
Ryan Blaney, 19, has won a race on both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck circuits this year, earning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the latter series after his runner-up finish in the Ford EcoBoost 200 season finale Friday night. Dave Blaney said he continued to compete in Sprint Cup races in order to support his son's career, which is now off and running.
"He's gotten some really good opportunities, and I feel like he's grabbed them and run with them, and done a good job. Really proud of him," Dave said. "There are only a few things I can help him with now, and it's maybe only somebody on the outside looking in, and making sure his attitude is good, and he's in the right frame of mind. I can still help a little bit, and love being around it. So all good."
A dirt racing legend from Ohio, the elder Blaney began competing at NASCAR's top level in 1992, and has three times recorded a best finish of third, most recently in Baldwin's car at Talladega in the fall of 2011. He has one Nationwide Series victory, at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the former Braun Racing team in 2006.
As for 2014? "We'll see if something comes up here. It's feasible that something could come up here with one of these small teams," Blaney said. "So you never know. We'll see."
Blaney is one of several veteran NASCAR drivers at a crossroads this season. Bobby Labonte, 49, completed a three-year run with JTG Daugherty Racing last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, and has no set plans for next year. Mark Martin, 54, has given every indication that Homestead will be his final race before he transitions into an advisory role with Stewart-Haas Racing. Ken Schrader, 58, is making his last Sprint Cup start Sunday. And though Jeff Burton, 46, has said plans for next year are coming together, nothing has yet been announced beyond his impending departure from Richard Childress Racing.
Now added to that list is Blaney, who could be making his 466th and final Sprint Cup start on Sunday. But then again, there are worse fallback plans than becoming a full-time proud dad.
"Honestly, I've done this for a while kind of to support Ryan," Blaney said. "And Ryan is in good shape or kind of on his own, and I'm just going to enjoy that. Enjoy watching him and being a part of that."