- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Dave Blaney is down to one reason to stay at Daytona International Speedway: His son, Ryan, is racing in the Truck Series.

When Ryan’s season opener is over Friday, dad will be hitting the road, too.

Dave Blaney withdrew from the Daytona 500 on Thursday, one day after he totaled his only car in the first full practice for “The Great American Race.”

Blaney posted the slowest pole-qualifying speed Sunday and was set to start last in the first of two Thursday night races that set the 43-car field for the season-opening Daytona 500. But Blaney got caught up in a seven-car accident Wednesday, a setback that cost him a shot at making NASCAR’s premier event.

“We didn’t want to go home with a junk race car and not even a shot to make it,” Blaney said. “But that’s where we’re at.”

Blaney had made 13 of the previous 14 Daytona 500s, missing only the 2010 showcase event. He finished 15th in 2012 and was 17th last year, proving he can get around the 2½-mile speedway even while driving for under-funded Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Blaney signed with Randy Humphrey Racing this year, another shallow-pocket team trying to leave Daytona with a huge paycheck; the last-place finisher in 2013 received $264,354.

“It sure would have been nice to have that moving forward,” Blaney said. “But I think Randy knew coming in that you can’t bank on that happening, so it’s fine. We’ve just got to come back next week, be solid, make the race and go forward.”

It might be difficult to not look back, though.

Blaney knew all about the risk of practicing at Daytona, where horsepower-sapping restrictor plates often keep the field packed tightly together. Baldwin refused to let Blaney go out during practice the last three years.

This year, Blaney was trying to fine-tune his No. 77 Ford when Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth got together coming out of Turn 4 and started the melee. Blaney, like several other drivers, wanted to get out of the drafting pack. But he was stuck, unable to slow up without causing an accident.

Instead, Blaney’s car became collateral damage.

“I regret being on the racetrack at that point,” Blaney said. “That was a big mistake. We should have waited a little bit. It’s a double-edged sword there. If you don’t practice and save the car and go out there in the twins and things are going well, you’re mad cause you should have practiced.

“If you do practice, then there’s a chance something like that can happen. It’s tough, tough. But looking back, it was a no-brainer: We should have stayed in the garage.”

The team approached fellow Ford teams Penske Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Front Row Motorsports, but none of them was willing to provide Blaney a backup car.

Randy Humphrey Racing got a late start on 2014 preparations, so getting two cars ready for Daytona wasn’t really an option.

“We just wanted to make sure it wasn’t hitting the ground at higher speeds, it was driving fine, just simple stuff like how did it pull up to people,” Blaney said. “On the back straightaway, I thought, ‘I don’t need to be here.’ And then I got around to the front and wrecked. Just a bad day at the racetrack, you know.”

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