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NASCAR Cup: Ryan Blaney begins quest for playoff advancement from pole

Ryan Blaney wins the pole for the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 10, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Ryan Blaney wins the pole for the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 10, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Ryan Blaney’s 26.098-second/137.942 mph lap in the third of three rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday was fast enough give the driver the pole for Sunday’s Can-Am 500, the second-to-last race of the season. It’s his his second-career pole.

“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.”

Blaney will share the front row on the starting grid with fellow-playoff driver Denny Hamlin.

“It was just short of great,” Hamlin said of his last-round lap. “It was close – second week in a row second, but we’re knocking on the door. We’re fast. We’re doing everything we need to do to put pressure on the other guys and try to get a win. Our car is, obviously, fast enough. Just got to tune it in tomorrow and get this thing going for 500K or something like that.”

Of the remaining playoff drivers, Brad Keselowski was the lowest qualifier and the only remaining playoff driver to fail to advance the the final round, or round of 12, of the three-round qualifying session. Keselowski, though, did get to round two and qualified 16th.

Former playoff driver, Kyle Larson, was the highest qualifier among drivers no longer in the championship hunt, qualifying third. He’ll be the only non-playoff driver to start in the first two rows, as he’ll share the second row with Chase Elliott.

“I’m happy,” Larson said. “I would have liked to have been a handful of thousandths faster to be on the pole, but third is good.  I feel like they did a good job adjusting the car throughout the rounds, especially that final round. We got a little looser the second round, and they got the grip back good for the final round. Start third; happy about that, and yeah, we will try and race for a win on Sunday.”

Larson opened the qualifying session with the fastest lap in the first round — a 26.182-second/137.499 mph lap. Matt Kenseth, though, turned in the fastest lap, overall, of the qualifying session with a 26.067-second/138.106 mph lap in round two. It was the only 138+ mph lap of the three-round session.

Kenseth wound up seventh in round three, and will, as a result, line up seventh on Sunday’s starting grid. He’ll share row four on the grid with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and playoff driver, Kyle Busch. They’ll be a row behind playoff drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, who, along with Busch, already have clinched Championship Four berths.

The remaining playoff driver, Jimmie Johnson, qualified 12th.

All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers qualified in the top-10. Joining Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch in the first five rows of the starting grid will be their teammate and 10th-place qualifier, Daniel Suarez.

Here’s a look at the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway:
Row 1 — Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 2 — Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet)
Row 3 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford)
Row 4 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 5 — Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 6 — Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Row 7 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Row 8 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 9 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet), Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford)
Row 11 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 12 — A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford)
Row 13 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), David Ragan (No. 38 Ford)
Row 14 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford), Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford)
Row 16 — Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet), Landon Cassill (No. 34 Ford)
Row 17 — Corey LaJoie (No. 23 Toyota), Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Joey Gase (No. 7 Chevrolet), David Starr (No. 66 Toyota)
Row 19 — D.J. Kennington (No. 15 Chevrolet), Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 33 Chevrolet)
Row 20 — Kyle Weatherman (No. 51 Chevrolet), Derrike Cope (No. 00 Chevrolet)

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Posted by on November 11, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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