By Done Ward
(May 2005) -Former ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year Chad Blount has used personal confidence, past race experience and a new ride for M.L. Motorsports racing team to propel himself into fourth place in point standings after only three outings so far in 2005.
Blount, 25, captured the series Rookie of the Year award in 2002, then moved up to compete in 19 NASCAR Busch Series races the following year. In 2004, he was given the chance to race in two Nextel Cup races.
Chad Blount is hoping
to give ML Motorsports
a series title.
But this year, he has returned to the circuit that brought him the most success, and he is determined to make the most of it. Blount has won two of three ARCA RE/MAX Series races this season in Nashville, Tenn., on March 26 and in Salem, Ind., on April 24. The Salem victory was his sixth ARCA RE/MAX win in 32 career starts.
Its great to be back racing in ARCA because I know all these guys and I am familiar with the tracks, Blount said by telephone from his home near Warsaw, Ind., on April 25, the morning after his victory in Salem.
Blount had to outduel six-time series champion Frank Kimmel of nearby Jeffersonville, Ind., to win the Salem race. In dramatic fashion and with less that two laps remaining, Blount nudged the back of leader Kimmel, sending the local favorites car against the wall as the leaders prepared for the final lap. Blount went on to win his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series short track race and sixth overall, while Kimmel limped home in seventh with a badly damaged car.
Its definitely not the way we wanted to win, said Blount after the race. I have the utmost respect for Frank. We got into him some in Turn 3, then tried to give him room to straighten out. We were both racing hard.; it happens.
Kimmel was upset about the contact at the crucial moment, saying, It was pretty obvious; we flat got wrecked.
That should set up an interesting dual May 14 for the ARCA RE/MAX Series Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150. The event opens the five-month race season at the Kentucky Speedway and will also feature the ARCA Lincoln Welders Bluegrass 100 earlier in the day and a pre-race concert by The Kentucky Headhunters.
Photo provided by ML Motorsports
ML Motorsports crew
chief Tom Sokoloski
says he is pleased with his young drivers efforts.
To win in Nashville, Blount had to fend off a hard-charging Joey Miller to win the PFG Lester 150. It was a good rebound from his season-opening race in Daytona, where he wrecked early. In an exciting finish, Blount survived two late-race cautions, the latter which extended the race by six laps. Mario Gosselin and Miller lined up directly behind Blount for the final restart with one lap remaining. Miller shot to the outside of Gosselin for a second and caught Blount in Turn 3 but could not get around.
In the season opener in Daytona, Blount crashed after 39 of 65 laps.
Blount said his experience has gained him confidence for 2005, and now that he has landed a job with a solid team, he is ready for the challenge of bringing home a series title for ML Motorsports, he said. When the team released Jason Jarrett, Blount was among those drivers interviewed for the job, and he was their eventual choice.
Since joining the team, he says he has developed good chemistry with the team members and crew chief Tom Sokoloski. Chemistry is the one of the big keys to success in this sport because you spend a lot of time with these guys all season. Youve got to like one another, Blount said.
Sokoloski is a seasoned veteran of the sport. The victory in Salem was his career 44th.
"It's been exciting to have Chad on board," Sokoloski said. "I can't say enough about how hard he works. He's progressed so well from last year. We're winning, and that makes everyone happy."
The crew chief said Blount has matured since gaining recent experience the past two years. "I've seen a big difference in his confidence level."
Blount and Sokoloski have high goals this season. "Our goal right now is to win races; I'd like to win at least 10 this year," Blount said. He's also gunning to become the first ARCA driver to win four consecutive races.
I like running in ARCA. I like being competitive again, he said. Its like Im re-establishing my career all over again.
A self-proclaimed, fourth-generation wrench head, Blount grew up around racing by working in his father, Bobs, garage in Walkerton, Ind. His grandfather and great-grandfather were also into racing. Bob Blount still works for Todd Braun Racing but helps support his son on race day.
Both my parents (Bob and Kim Blount) come to all my races, Chad said. Everything I learned about racing I learned from my dad.
Photo provided by ML Motorsports
Chad Blount (left) celebrates his win
with Tom Sokoloski in Nashville.
After a stellar rookie year in ARCA in 2002, in which he won four times, Blount was hired to drive for Todd Braun Racing on the Busch Series circuit. He competed in 19 total Busch races that year, with his best finish fifth at Texas. He placed eighth at Nashville, a race he says he should have won had he not had engine trouble near the end.
In 2004, Blount signed on with Penske Racing as a test driver. He also raced in two Nextel Cup events. At Chicago, he qualified 30th and was ninth in Happy Hour for R&J Racing. But seven laps into the race, his car died with electrical problems. At Talladega, he drove for Penske with teammate Ryan Newman. He was running about 13th when his engine blew, he said.
Blount also drove in his career-only NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race last year, competing for Ultra Motorsports at Texas. He made an early mistake, however, and exited early after crashing.
Blount comes to familiar turf in Kentucky, a place where he has won and finished second in two previous ARCA races. He was also the first driver to test the newly re-paved 1.5-mile tri-oval in April 2002.
ML Motorsports will unload a new car for Blount to drive in the Bluegrass. He planned to test the car in Sparta in early May.
Weve got the thing turned around, and were ready to win some more races, Blount said. ML Motorsports has been in the sport for six or seven years, and they deserve a series title. I want to be in the drivers seat when they get it.