Our series of weekly "12 Questions" interviews continues with veteran driver Dave Blaney of Tommy Baldwin Racing. Blaney sat down with us in his hauler at Charlotte Motor Speedway recently.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
DB: There's no time limit on these, is there?
SBN: Not at all.
DB: Let's go back to that one.
SBN: OK, a pass. The next question: What's a memorable race you feel like you should have won but you didn't?
DB: Way back in '01, driving the Amoco car – it was the first year Dodge was back in it. We were leading the race at Atlanta by a long ways. We left a wheel left on a pit stop – or dropped the jack too soon or something – on a green flag stop. And the wheel fell off. We easily had a fast enough car to win that race.
That one... (grimaces and shakes head). It didn't hurt as much then as it does today, for whatever reason (laughs).
SBN: If you could make your own four-car Sprint Cup team, who would you pick as your ideal teammates?
DB: Man, you're really putting me on the spot here with other guys, aren't you? (smiles)
DB: Um...I'll just go with dirt guys on that: Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and...who's another dirt guy? Go back to that one, too.
SBN: OK, we'll come back to it. So are you picking drivers with dirt-racing backgrounds because that style would help your team or because you just like dirt guys?
DB: Nah, I just like ‘em (laughs).
SBN: When you were growing up, what driver did you want to be like?
DB: Well, growing up, I think most guys would tell you if their dad raced, that'd be who it is. And my dad (Lou) raced dirt cars the whole time we grew up – either sprint cars or dirt modifieds – so we'd go watch him every night. In our area, he probably won the most and was one of the top guys. So heck yeah, he was the top guy for us.
SBN: What's a memorable post-race escape you've made from the track to the airport?
DB: I remember New Hampshire used to be really bad – not that it's good now – and I remember hopping out of the car and just running for the tunnel. Didn't go back to the trailer, didn't change, nothing. I changed clothes at the rental car.
SBN: So you just sprinted for the tunnel?
DB: Yep. Just parked the car in the garage and took off. But I don't worry about that stuff too much anymore.
SBN: Who is somebody famous you'd like to meet that you haven't met yet?
DB: Bill Russell.
SBN: Oh yeah? Were you a fan of his?
DB: My brother and I grew up basketball fans – my brother played college basketball at West Virginia and got drafted, so he knew what it took to play at a high level – and I just always admired (Russell). Just the amount of championships he won – every team he was on won titles. He may or may not have been the best player, but they all won, and he was a big part of it.
SBN: Last year, Jamie McMurray won a few huge races and missed the Chase; Jeff Gordon didn't win any races but made the Chase and contended. Which type of season would you rather have?
DB: For me right now, I'd pick winning the races. And then I'd take the other one (laughs). But the wins first. They're both good.
SBN: Where does your motivation to win come from? It is for personal pride, or just being competitive or what?
DB: Well, everybody is different and has their own motivations. But mostly, I think it comes from being a competitive person – and in this garage, 99 percent of them are. Being competitive, having pride in what you're doing and wanting to be the best at it.
SBN: How much does your personality change from sitting here to when you're inside the car?
DB: I don't think I change too much. I think there are guys who change quite a lot (laughs). You've got to be somewhat different in the car – more aggressive, maybe not such a nice guy – at times. You've got to have that side of you, I think.
SBN: If you could take a year away from NASCAR and go do whatever you wanted, knowing you had a ride guaranteed, would you want to do it?
DB: I don't know. I've never been somebody who had to go see other parts of the world. Honestly, if I had that opportunity, seeing more parts of this country would interest me more than going overseas.
SBN: If you could switch lives with another athlete from a different sport, who would you want to be?
DB: Well, Michael Jordan kind of looked cool (Laughs). I wouldn't see many downsides to that! I admire guys like that who obviously have the talent. There's lots of guys who obviously have talent, but there's other things – drive and will to win – that puts them above everybody else.
SBN: When you hang up your firesuit for the last time someday, what do you want your retirement story to say about you?
DB: That doesn't matter to me, really. I don't know – it's not up to me to decide what it says, I guess. It'll be whatever it should be; what I've earned and what I've deserved.
SBN: Let's say you're going to win the Sprint Cup title. Would you rather clinch it at Phoenix or win it on the last turn of the last lap at Homestead?
DB: Last turn of the last lap would be cooler, no doubt. It would take a couple years off your life, probably, but it'd be cooler.
SBN: OK, back to the most underrated driver question. Who ya got?
DB: Matt Kenseth. He hasn't been real high on the radar the last few years, and I've always thought he's really, really good.
SBN: And your pick for your other teammate on the Sprint Cup team aside from Stewart and Kahne?
DB: I get to be on that team too, right?
SBN: Oh yeah.
DB: Put Kenseth down for that one, too.
SBN: You got it.