Blaneys come together to pay homage to father

HARTFORD – When Dale Blaney entered the track to qualify for the sixth-annual Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway, he felt mixed emotions.

The 50-year-old Hartford native said he missed his father, for whom the races were named and who passed away in 2009 after struggling with Alzheimer’s. Instead of focusing on that, though, Dale tries to look at the positive aspect of the event, as the proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“It’s bittersweet to race a memorial race for your dad,” Dale Blaney said. “Rather him be here watching it and be a tribute race for him, but it is what it is. It’s for a great cause, Alzheimer’s – it’s about the whole cause, Alzheimer’s and my dad and everything and all the people he raced against.”

Numerous fans and racers alike showed up on Wednesday to commemorate Lou, one of the most successful racecar drivers in the region with more than 600 dirt-track wins in Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania, amongst other places.

Although the attendance has decreased over the years since the first one, when NASCAR personalities such as Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne grew bigger crowds to Sharon Speedway. With those drivers no longer in attendance, Katie Blaney, Lou’s widow, said the crowd is there for her late-husband and not the big names.

“The people that are here tonight are really paying tribute to Lou’s memory, and a lot of them have seen Lou race for years and appreciated his talent,” Katie said. “In that way, it is a wonderful night that so many people can come out and talk Lou’s racing and their racing.”

His sons are perhaps the biggest of those individuals, as both Dale and his older brother, Dave, who was, until just a few months ago, a participant in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Dave attributed everything he and Dale learned about racecar driving to his father, with Dave starting his racing career at 18 years old and Dale beginning at 26.

“That’s how my brother and I learned how to race was just watching him,” Dave said. “That’s how you start, anyway – that’s where you get a feel for it, how to maybe go about it. It was just cool going with him the whole time, later on working with him around the cars and he was a really hard-working guy. That’s got to rub off on you.”

Until Wednesday night, though, neither of the Blaney brothers had picked up a win at the race named after their father, but Dave managed to snap that drought in the sprint-car race.

While Dave didn’t comment ahead of the race about what a win would mean for him, Dale expressed his desire to take home the trophy.

“It’d be huge,” Dale said. “I don’t know how emotional it’s going to be, but it’d be a great tribute to win this race. I’d love to be able to have my name on there – not only one time, but a couple of times.”

Dave probably wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.