Ryan Blaney edges Kevin Harvick for Pocono pole
Last year’s race winner is this year’s pole winner at Pocono Raceway.
Ryan Blaney, who earned his first win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series one year ago at Pocono, bolted to the top of the speed chart in the final round of qualifying on Friday to claim the pole for Sunday’s Pocono 400.
Blaney’s average lap speed of 176.897 mph was the fastest lap all day and just topped fellow Ford driver Kevin Harvick (176.807 mph). Jamie McMurray ended up third (176.626 mph).
Martin Truex Jr. was fourth and Kyle Busch, who won the pole in both Pocono races last season, had a close call with the wall during his final round lap and ended up fifth.
The rest of the Top 12 were Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.
The pole is Blaney’s second of the season and fourth of his career.
“It’s nice to be back here at Pocono, it’s been a great track for us, and it’s good to start up front,” Blaney said.
"We made big gains from practice to qualifying and then every round of qualifying. I didn't think we were going to have the speed to contend with Kevin. But we did a great job of making changes to the car. It had the speed in it all along, I just needed to make a clean lap.
Harvick completed a sweep of both rounds of qualifying using an average lap speed of 176.236 mph to top the speed chart.
Kyle Busch was second (176.015 mph) and Blaney was third (175.723 mph). Newman was fourth and Elliott completed the top-five.
Also advancing to the final round were Kurt Busch, McMurray, Hamlin, Logano, Bowyer and Austin Dillon.
Among those who failed to advance were Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson, William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“We’re working hard and getting better,” said Johnson, who will line up 15th in Sunday’s race.
Harvick led a relatively quiet first 15-minute session of knockout qualifying, posting an average lap speed of 175.950 mph to lead the way.
Larson was second (175.805 mph) and Hamlin was third (175.285 mph). Kurt Busch and Blaney completed the top-five.
Bowyer (seventh) and Elliott (eighth) both went out very late in the session after having issues on their initial attempts but both ended up in the Top 10.
All four Hendrick teams ended up in the Top 12.
Among those who failed to advance were Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Chris Buescher, Cole Custer, Ty Dillon and Aric Almirola.
“We were just too free. We didn’t have enough speed to make it to the second round,” Jones said. “If we could go back, we would probably do a second round but I thought we would be fine.”
Almirola got loose on the track during his attempt, which left him with the 34th-fastest lap.
“We had a tire issue and my car was just out of control,” he said. “It’s disappointing but we’ll take it and move on – what else can we do?”
|4||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||50.987||0.110||176.516|
|19||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||51.811||0.934||173.708|
|23||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||52.182||1.305||172.473|
Ryan Blaney on first-time Cup winners: "The odds aren't very good"
Garrett Smithley to make Cup Series debut at Michigan