Room For Racing, Basketball In Blaney's Heart

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dale Blaney holds West Virginia and its University close to his heart. But it’s clear there’s just one true love for the former Mountaineer basketball player, and that’s his lifelong relationship with racing.

Blaney, who played at WVU from 1983-86, scored 1,520 career points for the Mountaineers – including 29 against George Mason in 1986 – to rank 18th all-time. Sandwiched between Lester Rowe and Daryl Prue on the school’s al-time scoring list, Blaney’s name is permanently etched as among the greatest players in school history, topped with a 2013 Sports Hall of Fame induction and now a return to campus this weekend to help in Bob Huggins’ 2015 Fantasy Camp. The Hartford, Ohio native finished 16th in career assists (331), 10th in career double-figure games (80), 10th in career free throws made (376) and 10th in career free throw percentage (.813).

What makes the feats all the more remarkable is that Blaney didn’t further cultivate the hardcourt game during his down time, instead focusing on racing and building a career that would see him reach the Sprint Cup level while continuing to currently compete in the All-Star Circuit of Champion Series. Following his father, Lou, who won 600 races in 47 years, Blaney poured his time and tenacity into that sport first, essentially using basketball and its scholarship as a way to fund his education – and free up additional monies for racing.

“My major was physical education, but really my major was racing,” Blaney said just before the camp tipped off on Friday evening. “That’s what we were involved in our entire lives in my family. And just like any family that goes into something, if my dad was a dentist, I’d probably be a dentist. But it’s a lot more fun racing cars.”

It’s paid dividends for the former guard, who was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth round of the 1986 NBA Draft before becoming a full-time driver and eventually named World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year in 1998, National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year in 1990, Busch Points Champion in 1991 and the All-Star Series Points Champion in 1995, 1996 and 2008.

Blaney’s brother, Dave, runs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and has finished as high as 19th (2002) with 28 top 10s and a pair of poles.

Blaney, who has two races in Pennsylvania this weekend, was able to fit the start of camp into a busy racing schedule. He said he won’t participate in any team of one-on-one sessions, trying to keep aging knees and a 51-year-old body in shape for racing.

“I’ve had reconstructive (surgery) on both knees, and with the pain in playing, the enjoyment isn’t there anymore,” he said. “More frustrating than anything if I played. I still watch the game and enjoy the game. It was a big part of my life. I did more with basketball than I ever thought I’d do.”

“My four years here, when I left the Coliseum and went to my apartment, I raced,” he added. “I knew it was a part of my life and I always dreamed of doing it. Basketball, I got a great education, met a lot of great people and saw a lot of great things. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But if they put it (the option to immediately drive a race car) on the table when I was 18 years old, I’d have been racing cars.”

Blaney averaged 12.3 points a game at WVU, playing opposite fellow WVU Sports Hall of Famer guard Greg Jones. Blaney also had several honors, including the Atlantic 10 all-rookie team, while helping the Mountaineers to three NCAA Tournaments and two A-10 Tournament titles in 1983 and ’84. It was his last-second shot in the A-10 semifinals against favored Temple during his sophomore year that propelled the Mountaineers to their second league championship.

“Dale Blaney was a pretty good player,” Huggins said.

Blaney noted that head coach Gale Catlett’s system fit him, and that he pretty much simply stayed out of Jones’ way – something he isn’t as prone to do on the track. Blaney has two daughters, Leah and Ashley.

“At my age I’m a little more patient,” he said of his current racing style. “I’m more on the brake than the gas.”

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