INDIANAPOLIS – After several years away from touring the country on a full-time basis, Dale Blaney will return to chase the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions title this season.
Blaney, a six-time All Star champion, will drive for Sam McGhee Motorsports in the No. 11 sprinter, as one of the sport’s most decorated veterans joins forces with one of its youngest team owners.
The team will utilize Maxim Chassis and Fisher Racing Engines in their pursuit of the All Star championship.
Blaney, from Hartford, Ohio, takes the reins of the Sam McGhee entry from former driver Ryan Smith.
“I guess this is where Dale Blaney gets to go back and hopefully be Dale Blaney again,” joked Blaney. “We’ll find out before too long, but I can’t say thanks enough to the McGhees for giving me this opportunity. When Ryan went back to Pennsylvania, it opened up a seat and I just gave Mike and Sam a call to see what we might be able to put together.
“At the point that I’d gotten ahold of them, they weren’t in a huge hurry to make a decision, and as time went on it all just worked out in my favor,” he added. “There were a few other really good guys that were possibilities, but they chose me and my hope is that I can prove to them that I was the right pick.”
Even more than just having a ride, Blaney is eager to get back to a heavier schedule of races than he’s had in the last few years.
“It’s going to be fun. There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’ve never been to, but just to get back to running with the All Stars, who I’ve run with for years and years and years … is something I’m looking forward to,” Blaney noted. “It’s going to be a whole different group of guys than the ones I raced against the last time I was running for a championship – guys that I haven’t raced night-in and night-out – but it’s going to be a neat experience, I really think.
“Hopefully the old guy can still win a few of them.”
McGhee’s team began as a non-winged sprint car operation, finishing second in the USAC title chase in 2017 before moving to winged racing for the first time last year.
Smith picked up two All Star victories in the McGhee ride in 2018. The first was at Wisconsin’s Angell Park Speedway in late July and the second came in the Jim Nace Memorial National Open at Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway in September.
“Ryan and I had a lot of success together. He helped me learn how to understand a winged car and helped me to further my knowledge of switching from non-winged to winged cars, but when you have a driver the quality of Dale Blaney …. who is a name brand driver, that’s pretty special to me,” said McGhee. “When you look back at the success that Dale’s had in the past, it really helps build confidence going forward in our pursuit of the championship.”
McGhee is appreciative of Smith’s contributions to his team last season, wishing his former driver well while looking forward to the future with Blaney.
“Dale’s been racing for 30 years or so and his experience will be extremely valuable in just our second year as a winged team,” McGhee continued. “Hopefully we can take another step forward this year, find speed and come out with some big performances this year. That’s a huge goal we’re setting.”
Blaney and McGhee will forego the non-points All Star races in Florida to focus on their pursuit of series points, which will begin April 11 at Virginia Motor Speedway.
If the new pairing can come out of the box strong, Blaney believes he’ll have a shot at collecting his seventh series championship this year.
“We’ll see what happens, but I believe we can make a run at it. It’s just a matter of everyone feeling confident and comfortable going to the race track every night,” explained Blaney. “I had that for a long time, where I felt like I was the guy to beat, and I want to get that feeling back.
“I’ve raced for so many guys in the past few years that I’ve not had the opportunity to build a lot of chemistry,” he added. “You take it for granted when you have it, but hopefully we can get some of that back, build a great team and do some great things. It’s just a matter of everyone working together.”