When Dave and Dale Blaney played high school basketball together 10 years ago, their Badger High team from Kinsman, Ohio, was ranked No. 1 in the state.
Dale, 6 feet 5, went on to play at West Virginia and was drafted by the Lakers.
Dave, 5-9, decided to forgo basketball, even though he had all-state recognition, and become a sprint car driver like his father, Lou Blaney.
The Blaneys are in town for the opening races of Ascot Park's final season--the World of Outlaws Midwinter Championships Friday and Saturday nights. Dave, who won the Outlaws' opening race in a rain-shortened event last week at Bakersfield Speedway, will be one of the favorites. Dale, who quit basketball after his first NBA exhibition season, will be watching closely with an eye toward joining his brother in sprint car racing later in the year.
Dave, 27, of Cortland, Ohio, is one of the sport's up-and-coming drivers, having won 18 races last year in a variety of competitions. He won two main events in the ill-fated United Sprint Assn., which folded after its first year; four in the veteran Outlaws circuit, five in the All-Star Circuit of Champions in Ohio and seven more in open competition.
"I think this will be my best season," Blaney said. "Running in the USA last year with Steve Kinser, Sammy (Swindell) and Wolfie (Doug Wolfgang) really helped me. It always helps to run with the best, and when everybody runs together, those guys are the best.
"I kind of feel that in the next couple of years, though, that some of the younger fellows, like me and Bobby Davis Jr., will be up there. I've been improving every year, and with the changes we've made this year in the car, I think we'll surprise some of the old-timers."
Wolfgang, who was named to the racing writers' All-America team last year after winning 20 Outlaws and 11 USA races, is 37. Kinser, the USA champion and nine-time Outlaws champion, and Swindell both are 34. Blaney is 27 and Davis, who won the Outlaws championship last year after Kinser relinquished it to help start USA, will be 27 on April 8. Two of Davis' wins came in the Midwinter championships at Ascot.
Blaney, driving a new Ben Cook chassis for car owner Verlin Chupp, started on the pole last Friday and was still leading when the race, scheduled for 20 laps, was stopped by rain after 10 laps. Saturday night's race, along with the California Racing Assn. wingless sprint car race Sunday at Mesa Marin, was also postponed by rain.
In 1988, Blaney ran second to Kinser in the Pacific Coast championships at Ascot Park, but did not run here last year.
"I like Ascot. It's a good track where you can race high or low or whatever," Blaney said. "I hate the thought of it being the last year. It's one of the great tracks in the country."
Blaney hopes to expand his racing horizon this year by driving a stock car for Gary Stanton in five races in the Winston Cup series.
"Ken Schrader made the same move and has done all right by himself, so I figure I ought to try it," Blaney said. Blaney, like Schrader, is also a former U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown series champion. Schrader won in 1982, Blaney in 1984 in his rookie season. The Silver Crown series is for dirt track cars.
Blaney's father, who started racing sprint cars in 1960, is still racing at 50 on the modified circuit in New York.
In addition to the regular World of Outlaws contingent, this weekend's races will include West Coast favorites such as CRA champion Ron Shuman of Tempe, Ariz., Northern Auto Racing Club champion Brent Kaeding of Campbell, Calif., Jimmy Sills of Placerville, Calif., and Lealand McSpadden of Tempe.
OFF ROAD--Robby Gordon's success in winning his first race on the International Motor Sports Assn.'s Camel GTO series in the 24 Hours of Daytona has forced the Orange County driver to drop out of stadium racing, in which he is the defending sport-truck champion. His spot on Jim Venable's Ford Ranger team will be taken by New Zealand rally champion Rod Millen, now a resident of Newport Beach.
Millen, who won stadium races at Anaheim and the Coliseum driving a Mazda in 1988, will make his debut with the Ford team Saturday night when the second round of the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Gran Prix series is held at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Millen dropped out of stadium racing when Mazda withdrew its team last year and turned to rallying, where he won the Asia-Pacific Rally and Sports Car Club of America PRO Rally championships. He also won the production truck class in the Pikes Peak Hillclimb.
Gordon plans to continue driving a Ford F-50 truck for Venable in desert racing.
MOTORCYCLES--The final round of the 14th annual Golden State Nationals motocross series will be held Sunday at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino. . . . The American Trials Assn. will hold its Valentine's Observed Trials Sunday in Lucerne Valley.
DRAG RACING--The Top Gas West Drag Racing Assn. will open its season Saturday and Sunday at Bakersfield Raceway in Famoso. STOCK CARS--When Darrell Waltrip won $49,340 for finishing 14th in last Sunday's Daytona 500, he became the first driver in motorsports history to surpass $10 million in career earnings. It put him at $10,036,481. . . . The Winston Cup series moves to Richmond, Va., on Sunday for the Pontiac Excitement 400.