By John Bassetti
The Trumbull County native is closely monitoring finances as NASCAR sponsors wither.
Dave Blaney might do well running a second-hand retail business.
Hopefully, the Hartford native won’t be looking for retail work anytime soon. But based on the NASCAR driver’s ability to qualify in most of the Sprint Cup races for which he’s attempted in 2009, Blaney is making a few bucks for a penny-pinching operation.
The former Ohioan has been squeezing extra miles out of the No. 66 Toyota for Prism Motorsports, but exceeding expectations still hasn’t brought sponsors flocking to Prism’s door.
“That’s all we’ve been doing is trying to qualify for races and get a little money saved up,” Blaney said. “Our first race will be Charlotte — we’re going to run the whole race. That will be the first time we actually race.”
The start-and-park practice isn’t uncommon, especially when teams are struggling monetarily.
“There will be six or eight of those throughout the rest of the year that we’ll run the whole race and other times, we’ll just try to qualify. It’s not really what you want to be doing, but that’s all we can do.”
Such is life in NASCAR these days for lesser-funded teams.
In the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond on May 2, Prism’s intention was not to finish, but an accident knocked the 66 car out prematurely.
“We weren’t going to run the whole race anyway, but we had brake trouble and it kind of caught me off guard and got away from me. But we were just going to run 50 or 100 laps anyway. We stay out there because the team is looking for a little bit of sponsorship or money to race all they can, so they just do what they can do.”
The only race that Prism ran with the intention of finishing was the Daytona 500 with Terry Labonte behind the wheel when Window World was the primary sponsor.
The next race which Prism — owned by Phil Parsons and Randy Humphrey — has chosen to run in its entirety is Charlotte on May 24.
At least Blaney is behind a steering wheel. If he wasn’t, his other option would be “sitting home and waiting for something to happen,” he said.
Exposure is the best medicine right now, even if the outlook is bleak.
“The number of sponsored teams is way down this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes down even more next year,” Blaney said. “So you’ve got to be ready to ride out a couple tough years and, hopefully, get back with sponsored team and go racing.”
The No. 66 has been pretty generic, so far.
“We really haven’t had any sponsors on it,” Blaney said. “It’s kind of plain every week. There’s nothing on the car.”
Dave’s family doesn’t have a problem with the 2009 existence.
“You do what you have to do to making a living and keep trying. If the economy turns around or some more sponsors kind of crawl back into the sport, then maybe you’re sitting there in a position to get a ride.”
“I want to keep doing this [racing], so that’s what we’ve got to do at the moment.”
Dave said his ties to Prism aren’t binding.
“Their goal is to end up with a sponsor and race full-time. In the meantime, I just stay out there. Maybe it [a full-time deal] happens with them; maybe it happens [for Blaney] with somebody else [another team].”
At the track, Blaney said there are no glaring signs of despair.
“You don’t notice much at all at the race track. The fully funded teams are operating no differently than they did.
“I’m sure they’re watching their budgets a little closer, but the big thing — if they are fully funded with a sponsor — is keeping that sponsor. I’m sure everybody’s concerns through these times — if they’ve got a sponsor — is keeping them in the next few years.”
He reiterated that there are fewer sponsored rides.
“A bunch of guys are in the same position as me: either they’re doing what I am or they’re not racing at all right now. I think everybody’s a little bit concerned, but it’s no different from any other profession right now.”
At Talladega on April 26, Michael McDowell drove the 66 because Blaney took a week off to spend with his family.
“He drives for another team in Nationwide and just subbed for me for the Talladega race,” Blaney said.