Blaney wins Phoenix pole; McDowell and Suarez fight

Ryan Blaney, the only Team Penske NASCAR Cup driver without a win this season, won the organization’s first pole of the season.

Blaney wins Phoenix pole; McDowell and Suarez fight

Blaney rocketed to the top of the leaderboard in the final five-minute round of Friday’s knockout qualifying to win the pole for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Blaney’s average lap speed of 141.287 mph was more than a mile-an-hour faster than second-place Chase Elliott (140.171 mph). Denny Hamlin was third (140.007 mph).

Kyle Busch was fourth and Brad Keselowski completed the top-five.

The pole is the first for Blaney this season and first this year for Team Penske. It’s the sixth pole of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and second at Phoenix.

“Qualifying hasn’t been our best this year but it’s the first short track we’ve been at,” Blaney said. “We’ve had speed all day, which has been kind of fun. We’ve just kind of tweaked on it and tweaked on it.

“It’s nice to get the weekend started off right. We’ll see how our race car is tomorrow (in practice). That was fun. At Las Vegas, was I wasn’t too happy about qualifying but now it’s cool you actually have to lift and you can work on your car.

“It’s a great way to start the weekend and hopefully it keeps going for us.”

Rounding out the Top 12 starters are Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Daniel Hemric and Joey Logano.

Keselowski and Logano, Blaney’s teammates, have won the last two races at Atlanta and Las Vegas, respectively.

Round 2

Blaney, who was fastest in Friday’s lone practice session, ended up fastest in the second round with an average lap speed of 140.400 mph.

Hamlin was second-fastest (140.280 mph) and Bowman was third (140.247 mph). Keselowski was fourth and Kyle Busch completed the top-10.

Also advancing to the final round were Elliott, Harvick, Truex, Byron, Logano, Hemric and Jones.

Austin Dillon was ousted from the Top 12 at the last moment as Jones made another last-minute successful qualifying run. He will start 13th.

Among those failing to advance to the final round were Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Round 1

After an oil spill at the end of Xfinity Series practice, there much was hesitation among drivers to be the first out on the track for Cup qualifying and run through the speedy dry.

When much of the field did get on the track, Harvick bolted to the top of the leaderboard with an average lap speed at 138.980 mph.

Elliott ended up second (138.766 mph) and Stenhouse was third (138.451 mph). Menard was fourth and Chris Buescher completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 was Keselowski, Logano, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Blaney.

A brief fight broke out between Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell after Suarez approached McDowell on pit road following the session. Suarez was apparently upset that McDowell impeded his qualifying run on the track.

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“I held him up on that lap, that was just a miscommunication,” McDowell said. “We were all waiting until the end to go out there.”

Said Suarez: “Just a lack of respect. You got to try to get out of the way if someone is making a hot lap. That’s racing.

“I’m the kind of driver that I’m going to give a lot of respect to you, always, if you give me respect back. If you don’t give me respect, I’m going to go kick your ass.”

Among those who failed to advance to Round 2 were Kyle Larson, Matt DiBenedetto, Clint Bowyer, Suarez, McDowell and Larson.

Larson said he never saw the flag to indicate his second qualifying lap would not count.

Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was only car to fail pre-qualifying tech twice and had an engineer ejected for the remainder of the weekend. He will also lose 15 minutes of practice from Saturday’s final practice session.

Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 elected not to qualify as the failed pre-qualifying inspection once and elected not to try to go through again.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Time Gap Mph
1 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 25.480   141.287
2 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 25.683 0.203 140.171
3 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 25.713 0.233 140.007
4 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 25.741 0.261 139.855
5 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 25.742 0.262 139.849
6 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 25.757 0.277 139.768
7 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 25.794 0.314 139.567
8 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 25.823 0.343 139.411
9 19 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 25.861 0.381 139.206
10 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 25.901 0.421 138.991
11 8 United States Daniel Hemric  Chevrolet 25.928 0.448 138.846
12 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 25.962 0.482 138.664
13 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 25.924 0.444 138.867
14 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 25.936 0.456 138.803
15 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 25.936 0.456 138.803
16 1 United States Kurt Busch  Chevrolet 25.943 0.463 138.766
17 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 25.948 0.468 138.739
18 6 United States Ryan Newman  Ford 25.956 0.476 138.696
19 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 25.989 0.509 138.520
20 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 26.005 0.525 138.435
21 47 United States Ryan Preece  Chevrolet 26.025 0.545 138.329
22 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 26.191 0.711 137.452
23 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 26.289 0.809 136.939
24 32 United States Corey Lajoie  Ford 26.310 0.830 136.830
25 95 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Toyota 26.315 0.835 136.804
26 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 26.362 0.882 136.560
27 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 26.371 0.891 136.514
28 41 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Ford 26.379 0.899 136.472
29 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 26.382 0.902 136.457
30 36 United States Matt Tifft  Ford 26.411 0.931 136.307
31 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 26.709 1.229 134.786
32 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 26.777 1.297 134.444
33 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 26.989 1.509 133.388
34 51 Cody Ware  Chevrolet 27.770 2.290 129.636
35 77 United States Quin Houff  Chevrolet 28.646 3.166 125.672
36 52 Bayley Currey  Ford  
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