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#WinterHeat: Dale Blaney Thoroughly Dominated Night Number One Of Winter Heat

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Just when you thought that this is “the off-season” for any type of racing, Cocopah Speedway kicked off five days of ground pounding, earth shaking, 410 Winged Sprint Car racing!  Even though the rest of the country is dealing with the depths of winter, Yuma, AZ is basking in warmer weather and some of the best sprint car racing to kick off 2016!

Dale Blaney, brother of former World of Outlaw champion and former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney, kicked off the New Year in a thoroughly dominating fashion in night number one.  Blaney led all 30 laps of the opening feature for the 2nd annual Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown on Friday at Cocopah Speedway.

The Blaney ran off and hid from the rest of the competitors to claim the $12,000 top prize, and take the lead in the points standings after Round 1 Friday night. The action continues on Saturday with Round 2, which also pays $12,000 to win and $1,000 to start the feature.

“It definitely paid for most of the trip tonight,” Blaney said. “This track really suited our style. It was smooth and it was slick. I almost felt like I was back in Ohio. This is a great facility with great people running it.”

Blaney earned the most combined points throughout heat race and qualifier competition, which put him on the pole for the main event. After an opening lap crash, which resulted in Rico Abreu and Bill Balog flipping in turn one and Rico leaving the playing field resting upside down over the fence.  The race nearly went green to checkered without Blaney being closely challenged for the top spot.

However, with just two laps remaining and Blaney with nearly a straight-away lead, Ryan Smith had a flat tire, that brought out a caution. That set up a green-white-checkered finish with all of the competitors tightly bunched behind Blaney for the restart.

Blaney powered away from Justin Henderson, who started the feature on the outside of the front row and pursued Blaney from the runner-up position throughout the main event.

“We got beat by a heck of a good race car driver and a really good team,” Henderson said. “We were lucky when he finally got by the lapped cars they were out of the way for me to get by.”

Blaney had two close calls that almost provided the opportunity for Henderson to steal the lead. On Lap 7, a half a lap after reaching traffic for the first time, Blaney bumped the backstretch wall exiting turn two. Approximately a dozen laps later he got into the back of D.J. Netto, who was trying to stay on the lead lap.

“After that happened I just kind of backed up and got enough distance,” he said. “It was two close ones, but we’ll take it.”

Despite the incidents Blaney maintained the lead to become the sixth different winner in six Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown features. Henderson held off Greg Hodnett for second place in a tight race between two drivers making their debut at the 3/8-mile oval.

“We only really had one opportunity in that whole 30-lap race to maybe squeak by Justin,” Hodnett said. “He kind of blew it in and hit some dust and scooted out. I had a little bit of a run, but it wasn’t worth crashing him or I trying to shove it in there. We felt it was better to finish and come back tomorrow. We’re pretty happy with it. Overall, the guys did a great job getting acclimated to unfamiliar territory. We just have to continue to work toward getting our car a little better.”

Roger Crockett advanced from eighth to fourth place with Bud Kaeding rounding out the top five.

Jason Solwold, Joey Saldana, Daryn Pittman, Kyle Larson and Terry McCarl finished sixth through 10th, respectively.

Austin McCarl, Henderson, Crockett, Danny Lasoski and Logan Forler each won a heat race with Bill Balog, Smith, Larson, Solwold and Christopher Bell claiming a qualifier. Craig Dollansky and Abreu were the B Main winners.

Round two resumes tonight, and if the first night’s racing was any indication of what may be in store tonight, the spectators may need to pull down their safety belts a little tighter this evening!

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About Leon Hammack

Leon Hammack is a retired airline pilot and avid race fan. Leon is a contributing writer and photographer for all three of NASCAR's touring series, as well as sprint car and midget racing. A native of Fresno, CA now wintering in Yuma, AZ., additionally, he spends the summer months near Coos Bay, OR. You may contact Leon on Twitter @captainblowdri

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1 Comment

  1. Brandon

    January 2, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    The Buckeye Bullet is Dave, not Dale. Just saying….

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