PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Those looking for six-time and reigning Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek champion Dale Blaney have had to search a little harder than usual to find him this week.
That’s because Blaney has been soaking things in from a new perspective during the 38th edition of the All Star Circuit of Champions’ swing through the Buckeye State.
Instead of driving, like Blaney has done for more than three decades, the 56-year-old native of Hartford, Ohio, has spent this Speedweek working as an All Star official — serving in various capacities in the infield.
It came about innocuously enough, with a simple phone conversation, which blossomed into a job for the whole of the nine-race, 10-day stretch for the Tony Stewart-owned 410 sprint car series.
“I asked (All Star series director) Eric Walls, ‘Hey, do you need any help at Speedweek?’ I told him that I wasn’t really doing anything, and he said, ‘Yeah, come on out,’” Blaney recalled. “It gives me a new perspective on what they do. I’ve kind of known that a little bit from when I used to work at Sharon Speedway, so I kind of know a little bit of that side of it, but to be on this side of it is good.
“Life goes on every day. It changes and you just have to find something that makes you happy and motivated, and this has been a neat deal for me,” he continued.
While Blaney acknowledged he probably could have found a ride for Speedweek if he’d raised his hand or went looking for one, he added there’s one distinct reason why he didn’t take a driving job this time around, even though it meant giving up a shot to defend his Speedweek crown.
“I’m not willing to get in anything that I don’t feel like has an opportunity to win,” said Blaney, who was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2016. “I’m to the point where I’m 56, and if I don’t ever run another race in my life, that’s fine. I really don’t care.
“I’m tired of jumping in stuff that I don’t think can go out and win races, so I’m just not going to do that anymore. If something great comes along, where I could run a couple races here and there and contend, I might think about it,” added the six-time All Star champion. “But other than that, you may have seen me run my last race. I don’t know. I’m just not really too concerned about racing at this time.”
Through the first six nights of Speedweek, Blaney has aided the regular All Star crew in various capacities.
“I’m in the work area most days during racing, and then I’m here and there during qualifying … either pushing the cars on the scales or getting them off and lining them up for whatever,” explained Blaney. “The last couple of nights, I’d help spot in turns one and two because Ohio Speedweek can be a little dusty, so it’s tough for Eric sometimes to see a few corners. So during the feature if the work area is in the infield, I’ll be in there spotting a corner.
“If I’m on the outside, I’m basically waiting for somebody to come into the work area. Pretty much, whatever needs to be done, I’m all for anything.”
Blaney said he’s only contracted to help the All Stars as an official through the end of Ohio Sprint Speedweek, but he’s open to heading to Pennsylvania for the series’ next stretch of races in a similar capacity.
“Who knows what the schedule is going to be like after this week, with all the stuff going on in the world right now, you know?” he said. “You have to ask yourself if we are even going to be able to go out to Pennsylvania next week and run Williams Grove and Port Royal. Hopefully, we will. If they need me to come out, I’ll be more than glad to come out. If I’m not needed, I may still go out and work on somebody’s car there.
“We’ll see. I know I’m working through Sunday and then after that, my plans are up in the air,” Blaney noted. “I hope they’re enjoying my help and my perspective on things, though.”
It’s just the latest chapter in the storied — and sometimes unpredictable — career of Dale Blaney.
SPEED SPORT’s Ohio Sprint Speedweek coverage is presented by Cometic Gasket Inc., a leading worldwide supplier of gaskets and engine sealing solutions for the automotive performance, powersports, original equipment and remanufactured engine industries. No matter what you ride, Cometic Gasket can seal your machine so you can focus on the finish line.
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