HARTFORD - The big plans for the fifth annual Lou Blaney Memorial night of racing Tuesday at Sharon Speedway took a hit when NASCAR stars Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne weren't able to attend.
That might not have been such a bad thing for Kate Blaney, the widow of the former sprint car legend. Not that Kate wouldn't have loved to have seen Stewart and Kahne race their sprint cars with her sons Dave and Dale. It's just that the event to her is more about honoring the memory of her husband and raising money for Alzheimer's, the disease that took his life at age 69.
"We decided this," said Kate as she spotted another of the old-timers who once raced with Lou. "It was time to step back and realize why we had this, and we had this as an Alzheimer's benefit and not as a NASCAR race.
"It isn't about Tony and Kasey. It's about remembering Lou. It's about giving to the Alzheimer's Association. That was our first idea to do that. Because they're not here, if all these people come without them here, that tells me they want to enjoy the racing and honor Lou."
Stewart recently had two surgeries to repair a broken tibia and fibula as a result of a multi-car accident racing his sprint car at Southern Iowa Speedway. Kahne decided to not race sprints this year.
Dave and Dale wouldn't miss the event for anything on their busy schedules. Dave is continuing his lengthy career racing on NASCAR's Sprint Cup series, while mixing in about a dozen sprint races. Dale races sprints, leading the All Star Circuit of Champions in points.
"We lost our guys in the last couple of weeks, but it's still a really fun night," Dave said. "A bunch of people come out that don't come to many races. Friends of dad who raced with dad. That's the fun part; seeing them and having a nice money race."
Dale concurred with his older brother.
"It was great of those guys (Stewart and Kahne) to come the first couple of years," Dale said. "I guarantee you Tony will probably be back when he starts racing again, and we knew Kasey would have a hard time coming because he hasn't run a sprint car race this year.
"It's a race in memory of dad and to help Alzheimer's, so yeah, it's a good race for people to come out and pay tribute to my dad and help out a good cause."
Dave, as his fans well know, had a successful career racing sprints during a time when he was known as the "Buckeye Bullet". He's added several sprint races to his schedule this year.
"Wherever I can fit them around my NASCAR schedule," Dave said.
For one night the chase of the win, while still important, took a back seat to helping a cause that's near and dear to the heart of the Blaney family.
"They say it (Alzheimer's) will affect three out of four people in some way," Kate said.