By John Bassetti
Right now, he’s more dad than driver.
That’s because Hartford’s Dave Blaney knows more about his son Ryan’s 2012 season than his own.
At this time of year, being in the dark isn’t unusual for the elder Blaney, whose association with Tommy Baldwin Racing appears to be on solid ground, while his Sprint Cup schedule is not.
“We don’t have much going right now,” Dave Blaney said recently of his 2012 season outlook with TBR. “We don’t have much sponsorship, so we don’t know what our schedule is going to be. We just don’t know yet.”
Last year, two-thirds of January passed before plans were finalized for Blaney in the No. 36 car for TBR.
Nothing is in the works now, at least nothing for sure.
“The big, big, big deals are already done, but the smaller ones that we raced on and that we can use can happen last-minute,” Blaney said of a possible breakthrough in sponsorship arrangements for the mid-to-lower tier teams.
“So, it could easily develop into something pretty good like it did last year. We’ll just keep at it and see what happens.”
However, on Jan. 2, NASCAR.com reported that 41-year-old David Reutimann joined Tommy Baldwin Racing with a one-year deal that’s expected to cover at least 26 races.
“We feel like he [Reutimann] can help Dave [Blaney] and Dave can help him and hopefully we can pick up on our competition,” Baldwin said in the NASCAR.com story written by Dave Rodman.
“I can’t stress how good a job Dave [Blaney] did,” Baldwin said of hitting 2011 goals. “Our goals for 2012 are a little different.
“We want to spend our time getting more competitive and we’re excited now, because we know we can get to the next level.
“In addition to having Blaney, Reutimann will come in and help us with that; raise the bar a little bit on our program. Just where [Reutimann’s] been and the successes that he’s had [made me want him for our team].”
In the story, Reutimann said he was impressed by Blaney’s 33rd-place finish in the owners’ standings.
“They continually showed improvement,” Reutimann said. “Tommy started a team from nothing, raced it up into the top 35 and he continues to build the deal, and it’s impressive to see.”
Baldwin said he’ll start the season as Reutimann’s crew chief, while veteran chief mechanic Philippe Lopez would again work with Blaney.
One area of disappointment after season-opening testing at mid-month was the new car brought to Daytona.
“Testing at Daytona went OK, but we didn’t actually run as good as we thought,” Blaney said. “We took a different car than the car we ran really good with at Talladega [a season-best, third-place finish on Oct. 23].
“We didn’t take it. They built a new one to see if it would run better, but it didn’t run as good as we thought it might, so I’m not sure which way we’re going to go when we go back as far as last year’s car or this new one.”
Blaney’s 33rd-place standing has implications for 2012.
“Finishing in the top 35 [in owners’ points] locks in the first five races for 2012,” Blaney said. “That’s a big deal, going to the Daytona 500 and knowing you’re in the race.”
Yet when asked recently if he’d be the driver in the 500, Blaney said: “I’d say it’s totally up in the air yet. I don’t like it either, but that’s the way it is.”
Earlier, Blaney had said that Reutimann’s signing wouldn’t affect him adversely.
“It doesn’t impact me because we’ll have two cars. It all depends on sponsorship,” Blaney said. “If they get sponsorship for him, then maybe he races more. It all depends on money and Tommy trying to find a way to bring some money in the door. One [car] for me, one for him.”
About the only racing-related topic more exciting than Blaney’s finish at Talladega is his son.
Ryan, who just turned 18, is expected to run in half of the 14 NASCAR K&N Pro Series races, most likely those at big tracks in conjunction with Sprint Cup events, the first of which is at Bristol in March.
“He’s serious about the next level,” said Dave Blaney, who indicated that Ryan may have some races in the Nationwide Series.
In only his third K&N race, the teen won the Casino Arizona 125 in November.
Blaney cited an example of Ryan’s potential.
“We went testing at a little short track with Tommy Baldwin’s [Sprint] Cup car and Tommy said, ‘Hey, bring Ryan along.’
“So, he let Ryan drive it and his second lap on the track was better than any of mine. He’s already plenty good.”
Is he following in his father’s tire tracks?
“I think he’s way smarter. We started racing Ryan when he was 9 and he’s had a LOT of races to this point and he just turned 18. When I was 18, I might not have even started racing yet. He’s already had an 8-or 9-year career.”