ARGABRIGHT: Coach Blaney

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Dave Argabright
Dave Argabright.

It’s a clear winter day in Ohio, and thoughts of sprint car racing seem distant to Dale Blaney.

The Hall of Fame racer, a stalwart in open-wheel competition for more than 30 years, is spending time this winter chasing another passion: basketball.

Blaney is in his first season as an assistant varsity basketball coach at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., an hour north of Pittsburgh. It’s an opportunity for him to reconnect with the game that captured his passion in his formative years and led him to become a standout player at West Virginia University.

In his early 20s, a great conflict raged within Blaney. He was an excellent basketball player; but he also felt a strong draw to racing after watching his father Lou establish himself as a bona fide legend.

Dale’s older brother Dave was also in the midst of launching his own career, and in due course Dale elected to step away from basketball and follow his racing passion.

Coming off a year in which he and the Sam McGhee Motorsports team finished a close second in the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions point chase, Blaney hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the past season – or the one approaching.

“To be honest, I’ve been busy with the coaching position and it hasn’t allowed me much time to think about racing,” he admitted. “I don’t have anything lined up for [2020] and it hasn’t really been on my mind.

“Last year was fun, and I felt like we ran really well. I didn’t know what to expect coming into the year, but as it worked out we were competitive everywhere we went. We accomplished everything we wanted except winning the All Star title. So, I felt like last year was a good year.”

Blaney’s road has been long and successful, capped by his induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2016. His career stats include six All Star titles, and his 137 All Star wins are the most in series history.

His easy way with people and lighthearted sense of humor have brought him a strong fan following, and his honest interviews and interesting views make him a media favorite.

After years of relentless pursuit of titles and wins, Blaney briefly curtailed his racing schedule a couple of years ago, although this past season was back at it as fiercely as ever.

But it’s easy to sense that Blaney is comfortable with the idea that at some point he will make the decision to step away from the sport.

However, he isn’t spending a lot of time thinking about it at the moment.

“I haven’t pursued anything for [2020], but yeah, I’ve talked to a couple of people about maybe doing something,” he explained. “I feel like I can still get the job done, and I think we proved that last year. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity. If that happens, great. But if not, that’s great, too.”

The idea of racing a handful of times doesn’t hold much appeal for Blaney. He insists that it’s more a matter of being either all in, or all out.

“If I can’t race at least 50 times in a season, there isn’t much sense in doing it,” he says, “unless I become independently wealthy, which doesn’t look likely at this point. But if we’re going to race, let’s race. And there are still a few things I want to accomplish, and you can’t reach those goals unless you’re getting after it pretty good.

“I would really like to win a race at Eldora again. And if there is one (win) that is still on my list, it’s the Williams Grove National Open, and that’s because my dad won that race a long time ago. But at this point, that would be a tough one to get.

But you never know in life what’s going to happen.

“The only goal I ever had was to be the best sprint car driver I could be. I tried hard to do that. And really, I don’t have a lot of accomplishments left that I need to get done. Just being competitive is a challenge. If you’re competitive, you’ll win some races. And that’s what everybody is after.”

He laughs that easy laugh, and then it’s time to talk basketball.

“The coaching thing has been really fun,” he says, and his tone reveals that he’s sincerely enjoying himself. “Westminster is a Division 3 school, and these kids don’t have a lot of aspirations to play basketball forever. They are playing because they love the game and they love the experience, and it’s been good to be a part of that. As a coach, working with a young player and watching him get better, that’s a good experience.

“And it’s been really nice to be involved in basketball again. I still love that part of life.”

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