Ryan Blaney has won the pole for the Ruoff Mortgage 500 NASCAR Cup race with a lap of 27.127s 132.709mph in his Penske Ford.
It was the 7th career Cup pole, and 3rd at Phoenix for Blaney who beat Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by just 0.073s.
Last week’s winner in Las Vegas, William Byron (Chevy) was third while Christopher Bell (Toyota) and Aric Almirola (Ford) rounded out the top-5.
Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford has only a single Top-10 finish this year (fourth in the Daytona 500) and is coming off a hard-luck 36th place showing last week at Las Vegas after being collected in an early race accident not of his own doing.
“Good race trim and was happy, obviously, with the speed in qualifying,’’ said Blaney, who now has seven career NASCAR Cup Series pole positions.
“Proud of everybody on this 12 group and definitely needed it after our early end last week at Vegas. Hopefully we can stay up front tomorrow and have a shot at it,’’ he added, noting he has already put his Vegas bad luck out of mind.
“You just look past it,’’ he said, “I try not to stew on those things. Those things happen and you can’t let it get to you too much. It’s better to have fast cars and unfortunate things happen to you because at least you have fast cars.”
Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, is also hoping a good start will translate into a good finish. He won two races in 2021 and was racing in the Championship Four the last time the series competed at Phoenix, but has struggled this season with DNFs in two of the opening three races this year. His best finish is 15th at Auto Club Speedway and he’s ranked 29th in the standings heading into to the Phoenix green flag.
Hamlin is a two-time Phoenix winner, however taking the trophy in 2012 and 2019 – and he has top-five finishes in five of the last six races there. Three times he’s led at least 100 laps in a race and his 854 laps led is second only to nine-time race winner Kevin Harvick.
“Proud of our whole team for getting this thing out front, now we’ve just got to stay there,’’ Hamlin said.
Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron was third fastest in qualifying followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson, Team Penske’s rookie Austin Cindric, last week’s race winner Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman, and Team Penske’s Joey Logano round out the Top-10 starting positions all advancing to the second round of qualifying on Saturday.
Harvick, a nine-time Phoenix winner, will start 16th. Defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. will roll off 20th.
And Harvick, 46, and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team are hopeful some of that impressive past record will translate into some present day good fortune, but he refuses to equate his past record with his present expectations.
After turning in a series best nine wins in 2020, Harvick went winless in 2021 – the first time in 12 years he didn’t earn at least one victory. This year, he’s got only one top-10 showing – seventh place – at California Speedway. He’s yet to start a race from the top-20. He’s currently ranked 16th in points.
Despite his refusal to make expectations for the weekend, Harvick has to feel Phoenix is as good a place as any to right the ship. He’s only finished outside the top-10 one time there in the last 20 races (13th in 2013). He won six times in eight races between 2012-16, including four consecutive (2013-15). And even after the track re-design in 2019, Harvick has five top-10 finishes in five races, including a runner-up effort in 2020.
“I think a lot of the things that were finesse kind of went away when they put the resin and the PJ1 up there so that anybody could do that groove,’’ Harvick said this week at Phoenix, adding, “You just have to keep chipping away at it and try to keep yourself in contention and that is really what it is all about. We are still learning.”
And, he added, “What you have done here in the past is really irrelevant just because of the fact that it is a different car and a different style of racing. There are so many different things.
“We probably had a sixth or a 10th place last week (at Las Vegas) and had a decent car at California, we just kept having little things go wrong and just continue to chip away at it and see where it falls,’’ Harvick said.
|1||12||Ryan Blaney||Menards/Maytag Ford||27.127||132.709|
|2||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Office Toyota||27.200||132.353|
|3||24||William Byron||Axalta Chevrolet||27.216||132.275|
|4||20||Christopher Bell||Rheem – Capitol Container Toyota||27.217||132.270|
|5||10||Aric Almirola||Smithfield Ford||27.276||131.984|
|6||14||Chase Briscoe||Mahindra Tractors Ford||27.284||131.945|
|7||5||Kyle Larson||Valvoline Chevrolet||27.285||131.941|
|8||2||Austin Cindric #||Autotrader Ford||27.299||131.873|
|9||48||Alex Bowman||Ally/Best Friends Chevrolet||27.320||131.772|
|10||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil Ford||27.709||129.922|
|11||18||Kyle Busch||DeWalt Toyota||27.254||132.091|
|12||8||Tyler Reddick||Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet||27.323||131.757|
|13||3||Austin Dillon||Get Bioethanol Chevrolet||27.360||131.579|
|14||43||Erik Jones||FOCUSfactor Chevrolet||27.466||131.071|
|15||45||Kurt Busch||MoneyLion Toyota||27.505||130.885|
|16||4||Kevin Harvick||Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford||27.519||130.819|
|17||1||Ross Chastain||K1 Speed Chevrolet||27.539||130.724|
|18||6||Brad Keselowski||Violet Defense Ford||27.544||130.700|
|19||9||Chase Elliott||UniFirst Chevrolet||27.586||130.501|
|20||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Bass Pro Shops Toyota||27.602||130.425|
|21||42||Ty Dillon||Black Rifle Coffee Company Chevrolet||27.623||130.326|
|22||34||Michael McDowell||Love’s Travel Stops Ford||27.663||130.138|
|23||99||Daniel Suarez||CommScope Chevrolet||27.669||130.110|
|24||21||Harrison Burton #||DEX Imaging Ford||27.673||130.091|
|25||41||Cole Custer||HaasTooling.com Ford||27.691||130.006|
|26||17||Chris Buescher||ITsavvy Ford||27.714||129.898|
|27||23||Bubba Wallace||ROOT Insurance Toyota||27.738||129.786|
|28||31||Justin Haley||LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet||27.765||129.660|
|29||16||AJ Allmendinger(i)||Action Industries Chevrolet||27.806||129.468|
|30||7||Corey LaJoie||Built.com Chevrolet||28.046||128.361|
|31||77||Landon Cassill(i)||Voyager: Crypto for All Chevrolet||28.285||127.276|
|32||51||Cody Ware||Nurtec ODT Ford||28.288||127.262|
|33||38||Todd Gilliland #||Frontline Enterprises Inc. Ford||28.299||127.213|
|34||78||BJ McLeod||Premier Business Investments Ford||28.451||126.533|
|35||15||Garrett Smithley||Jacob Companies Ford||29.193||123.317|
|36||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Fry’s/NOS Chevrolet||0||0|
(i) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR POINTS
(*) REQUIRED TO QUALIFY ON TIME