Ryan Blaney sped to the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup pole position of the season and of his career this evening at Phoenix Raceway.
Blaney’s drove his SKF/Quick Lane Ford Fusion to qualifying laps of 137.122 mph, 137.573 mph and 137.942 mph and will pace the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Can-Am 500.
“We got better each round, which is all you can ask for really,” Blaney said. “I thought the last round was our best. We ran our fastest time and it was enough. That says something strong about this team. I think we started second here in the spring and to back that up and better it at a big weekend like this, where we have to perform well, that’s definitely encouraging and it gets our weekend started off on a good foot. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum up and keep it going and see what we have for them on Sunday.”
This is the fourth time this season that Blaney will start on the front row. It’s his eighth top-five start of the 2017 season.
Blaney still looks at Sunday’s race as a must-win situation.
“Our mindset coming into this weekend was really trying to win the race and sitting on the pole my mindset doesn’t change,” Blaney said. “I still want to go try to win the race, so that’s the mindset we’ve had all week and hopefully we can keep that and I think that’s our goal.”
Asked what it will take to lead the race, Blaney responded, “Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve never really had the best races here. We’ve had moments of greatness here and then most of the moments we haven’t been fantastic here.”
The challenge, he said, is switching from qualifying trim in cool temperatures to race trim in higher temperatures.
“It’s completely different,” he explained. “One is q-trim and two it was really cool outside when we qualified here tonight and it will be really hot on Sunday. Just trying to make your car be able to last long. We usually see long green flag runs here and try to keep everything cool – brakes and tires and things like that.
“I thought we were okay today in race trim (during practice), he continued. “I didn’t think we were great, but we’ll have all of tomorrow to try to get that a little bit better. But just trying to keep the car under you on long runs, that’s what we always see here and I felt like that’s kind of been a struggle for us and hopefully we can change that come Sunday.”
A key benefit of winning the pole is having the first pit box selection.
“I think it’s really important no matter where you go,” Blaney said. “Here, it’s kind of nice to have this number one pit stall because you’ve got the curved ending to the pit road. That’s kind of nice to have so you don’t have to watch cars coming out of their stall if you’re pitted way back here, and maybe here you can kind of see which cars do two tires and no tires if they’re really far down pit road. Our spotter can relay that to my crew chief before we even get to our stall and they can make an audible call or whatever. It’s important anywhere. I don’t really think this place is more important than anywhere else to have the first pit stall.”
In addition to being Blaney’s second career pole, today’s effort gives Wood Brothers Racing its 118th pole. Should he win Sunday’s race, it will be the Wood Brothers’ 100th in addition to putting Blaney in the Championship Four at Homestead.
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