Nothing has come easy for Blake Feese

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
The path to stardom in NASCAR can be a tough road, but what makes it easier for the rookies is persistence and guts. Blake Feese exhibits both of those traits.

Feese has been driving part-time this year with Turner Motorsports, piloting the No.32 AccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet in 7 races this season. With a season-best finish of 4th at Atlanta, Feese has been getting that ever- valuable seat time needed to help further his learning curve of the trucks. With only 6 starts, 7 as of Talladega, he is currently 28th in points and is ahead of drivers who have raced in triple the number of races that he has. That says a lot about Feese and his driving skills. This year’s results have been consistent with finishes of 18th, 18th, 4th, 21st, 12th and 13th.

Though Feese is new to the NASCAR scene, racing has been his life story since birth. His father Dave was a racer and packed the family up most weekends to hit the local tracks. That started the passion for Blake at a young age.

“They didn’t want me to race,” said Feese as he recounted his upbringing and start into racing. “Dad struggled, but at the same time he raised a family and built a business, so he was very busy. I am very proud of him!” For Blake himself, the passion his father put into racing was passed onto him. “All I ever wanted to do was race.  I do not remember ever wanting to be a racecar driver, that is what I felt like I was even from the time I was little.”

Starting his journey on a four-wheeler, Feese began racing in quarter midgets at the age of 10. Even that was a long road for Feese, who from the age of 7 was begging for a ride as he attended races with his cousins. Pacing the pits with his helmet, a young Blake would ask for a ride. Now, keep in mind quarter midgets are usually family-owned cars, so he was asking a mom or dad to bump their kid to give him a ride. Usually by the end of the evening, someone would let Feese at least practice in their car for a bit and that is the message: the value of persistence. “I started begging and asking for rides when I was little and it really hasn’t changed,” Feese said with a chuckle.

After racing sprint cars, Feese was advised to make the transition to stock cars, so he did as many drivers do. He packed up and headed from his home in Illinois to North Carolina. Again the picture of persistence, Feese went calling on Rick Hendrick. No appointment, no phone call, he just showed up at HMS one day asking to see Mr. Hendrick, though Hendrick was not even in the office that day.

Attending as many races and events as he could, Feese’s luck changed at a World of Outlaws race in Charlotte. The door had been shut in his face so many times because he was not a big name, nor did he bring the big money, but meeting Jimmy Spencer changed that. Feese told his story to Spencer, who offered him the name of Charlie Patterson.  Patterson helped Ryan Newman get his foot in the door of NASCAR.

“The word "no" means absolutely nothing to me because I have heard it since I was six years old,” said Feese, talking about the doors being shut in his face. But after that ever present persistence, finally the golden opportunity arose; Feese got to meet Rick Hendrick and was signed to HMS as a developmental driver in 2004. Hendrick signed Feese to run in the Busch (Nationwide) and select ARCA series events for the team. Feese found success under that HMS banner, winning two ARCA races, Nashville (in only his second career start) and Talladega.

Getting to the present day has been a tale of guts and determination for Feese. His story is not one of a free ride and smooth sailing.

In a deal that has come together since Daytona, Feese and Turner Motorsports have been able to work on gaining consistency and comfort for Feese. Feese says, “every weekend we start off kind of slow and then a light bulb goes off and then we find that speed we need. Sometimes that has put us a little behind early, but we fight our way back. We have been able to bring home some decent finishes that we can be proud of.”

A finish to be proud of for Feese and the No. 32 team was 4th at Atlanta, the highest finish for the team so far this season.

I spoke to Feese prior to qualifying for Talladega. As a previous winner at ‘Dega, though in ARCA, I was curious if that experience would aid him at all in getting around the track. “It doesn’t because it has been repaved since then,” Feese replied. “The trucks punch a much larger hole in the air, so the draft and closing rate are different. I have to feel that out and get used to it,” said Feese. He seemed to feel it out enough for qualifying;  after we talked he went out and laid down a stout 54.760 second lap and will start in 11th place, although he did tell me he was worried about not having a drafting partner because of that little thing you call a rookie stripe, I think he will be fine.

In fact, Feese did do fine in the Talladega race, he was able to run in the top-15 throughout much of the race. Trouble hit Feese when ahead of him drafting went awry between Parker Kligerman and Todd Bodine. In the traffic jam, Feese and Johanna Long got into one another and Feeese went for a wild ride through the infield grass. The team was able to rebound for a 19th place finish.

Thankfully for Feese, Turner Motorsports has a large stable of drivers with a wealth of knowledge to turn to for help. In the NCWTS they field trucks for James Buescher and Ricky Carmichael,  in the NNS currently Justin Allgaier and Jason Leffler drive for Turner. NSCS veterans Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne also fill seats within the company. “James has helped me a lot. After practice if there is something I need and am missing, he can help pull it out of me and we can make the changes needed. My questions are so novice and I hate that I am ‘that’ guy asking these novice questions, I wish I was the guy answering them, but it is part of the game and where we are at right now.”

With only 7 different race tracks under his belt, I asked Feese if there is one track that he feels suits his driving style. “I can tell you I was most comfortable at Atlanta,” he replied. My response: I knew you were going to say that, seeing that you finished in 4th, how could you not say that! “That was a great feeling, to run fourth and pass some Cup drivers. The real reason is what I mentioned earlier, that light bulb went off and I figured out what I needed to do to be fast."

As a rookie in the NCWTS, Feese weighed in on the hotly-debated subject of Cup drivers in the truck series when I asked him if their presence evokes a different mindset for him as a driver when they race versus the stand alone races. “I do not feel that way and here is why: when we ran Atlanta, Hornaday was leading and we were catching him but there were Cup guys behind me trying to catch me,” said Feese. “We were fast enough that they did not run us down. We were able to hold our own even though they had new tires, and we came out of there with a good finish. Having those Cup guys up there in the top-10 gives a sense of accomplishment and pride. If you can pass them, it is just another truck, that is not really an issue,” Feese’s reply is the general tone of drivers in the garage.

At the NASCAR Camping World Truck Lucas Deep Clean 200
Credit: CIA Stock Photography
As we all know, NASCAR fans are as passionate as they come, so I asked Feese to tell me one thing to share about himself that fans should know. “Me having the opportunity and being out there racing is by the grace of God,” was Feese’s immediate response. “It’s truly by God’s grace and blessing that I have this opportunity. I have had to scratch, claw and put in a lot of hard work to still be here. It has been a struggle and a fight,  but it has been a learning process and it has been character building. Simply put, nothing has come easy!”

NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless.Amanda also expanded her area of coverage to include exclusive interviews, brought straight to the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews click here. Feel free to follow and contact Amanda via Twitter.
Nothing has come easy for Blake Feese Nothing has come easy for Blake Feese Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, October 24, 2011 Rating: 5