Meet the Driver
Hometown: Hartford, Ohio
Blaney, whose first full season on the Winston Cup circuit came in 2000, is quickly establishing himself as one of the series’ rising stars. Driving the Jasper Engines and Transmissions Ford, he has become a consistent top-10 finisher.
Blaney won rookie of the year honors in the All-Star Sprint circuit in 1983 and later moved up to USAC and World of Outlaws competition.
A fan of the Washington Redskins, Blaney owns a short track in Pennsylvania and a World of Outlaws team of which his brother, Dale, is the driver.
The job of a NASCAR transporter driver is hardly an easy one, but sometimes the weather can make the job even rougher. The Rockingham 200 earlier this year was delayed from Saturday until Monday due to rain, and that created a logistical nightmare for the men who expected to be back at their home camp that day. After all, the next race was scheduled for Saturday.
Gary Clem is the transporter driver for Elliot Sadler’s No. 38 team, and he found himself with a short turnaround time since the next race was in Las Vegas – 2,300 miles away.
“Normally, we’d like to have left the shop in Mooresville, N.C., at around noon Monday,” Clem said. “But, I didn’t get back from Rockingham until late afternoon Monday. The guys loaded and unloaded the truck while I slept and I was able to get on the road at 8 o’clock Tuesday morning.”
Under normal circumstances, such a trip would take 36 hours. The team’s check-in at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was Thursday morning, which means Clem had 54 hours to make the journey.
Clem would’ve preferred to have a little more wiggle room.
“We can certainly make it, but I like to have a little more time built in,” he said. “If you have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and run into some bad weather, things can get a little tight.”
Clem made the journey just fine, but he spent the long trip worried about things out of his control.
“The most direct way is straight out Interstate 40,” he said. “But if there’s bad weather, you have to drop down to Interstate 20. When that happens, you lose four or five hours. You spend a lot of time watching the Weather Channel.”
When a sport has a preseason poll, you know it has officially arrived. And in the first-ever preseason poll for NASCAR Winston Cup racing, Jeff Gordon was the favorite to claim his fifth series title when this 2003 season comes to a close.
The prediction is hardly a stretch.
With 61 wins to his credit, Gordon is seventh on the all-time victory list and stands alone among active drivers. He could walk away from the sport today, and his status as a legend would be secure.
But like any competitor worth his gas money, Gordon wants more.
“We’re looking at a lot of great things this year,” says Gordon. “We’re looking back at last season and trying to find all of the areas we could’ve been better at. We want to make sure we don’t make any mistake that are going to cost us points in the championship.”
Last season Gordon won three races but finished fourth in the points chase – well behind champion Tony Stewart. It was a year that saw plenty of parity in the sport, with 18 different drivers finding their way to victory lane.
“It’s more difficult to win now,” Gordon said. “I think what’s happening is you’re seeing more guys win but not as many guys winning multiple races. That says how competitive it is and how difficult it is.”
In 2001 with Gordon driving and crew chief Robbie Loomis preparing the DuPont-sponsored Chevrolet, the multi-colored machine wound up in victory lane six times, and Gordon won the points crown by a comfortable margin.
He has always been a quick study, getting his USAC license at 16 instead of the customary age of 18.
In 1993 Gordon took Rookie of the Year honors and became the first driver to cop those honors in both Winston Cup and Busch Series racing. He also won one of the 125-mile qualifiers at Daytona, the first rookie to do so since 1963.
A year later Gordon found himself in victory lane twice, winning the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indy and NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
In just his third year in Winston Cup, Gordon grabbed his first series crown and became the youngest champ of the modern era. Along the way, he scored seven victories and earned almost $4.5 million – the most earnings in a single season in the history of stock car racing.
In 1997 Gordon won his second championship. Aside from winning the Winston Million, Gordon took 10 checkers. He picked up his third points title a year later, and this time he exceeded his 1997 accomplishments with an astounding 13 victories, seven poles, 26 top-5 finishes and two No Bull Five wins. His 13 wins and four-race win streak were both modern records.
But the next two seasons saw Gordon stumble – at least by the standards he had already set for himself. There were seven wins but a sixth-place points finish in 1999, and in 2000 Gordon won just three races and wound up ninth in the final standings.
In 2001 Flash Gordon was back. Aside from his six checkers, he had an astounding 19 top-5 showings and 21 top-10s.
Earnhardt and Petty each have seven big trophies, while Gordon’s alone in third place, ahead of such greats as Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Lee Petty.
Now, the task at hand is regaining his old dominance.
“We feel we can make a few improvements in the new Chevy Monte Carlo,” Gordon said. “We feel like its going to put us a lot closer to the Dodges and the Fords week in and week out, and we’re excited about that.”