Dave Blaney, 7 others inducted into Sprint Car Hall of Fame

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Only one driver missed Saturday’s Happy Hour final practice for Sunday’s FedEx 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

But Dave Blaney had a good reason for not taking part.

While the rest of his fellow drivers were logging more practice time, Blaney was in Knoxville, Iowa, where he was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame during ceremonies Saturday afternoon.

(Personal note: It’s about time!)

Blaney and seven others – Dave Argabright, Bobby Davis Jr., Mark Kinser, William “Windy” McDonald, Chuck Merrill, the late George Nesler and the late Larry Beckett – were inducted into the Hall, the 25th class to be honored.

Blaney had a very successful career in sprint cars, including being crowned the 1984 USAC Silver Crown Champion and the 1995 World of Outlaws Champion, before moving to NASCAR racing.

In 1997, Blaney enjoyed one of his best seasons ever, winning the Gold Cup, at Eldora Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals, the most notable race on the sprint car schedule.

According to a press release from the Hall, 18 prior inductees will be on hand to congratulate Blaney and the rest of the 2014 class.

Congratulations to Dave and the other inductees on a well-deserved honor.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994