NASCAR: Blaney wins pole for Ruoff Mortgage 500 Cup race

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.

#11 Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

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.

#20 Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

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.

Qualifying Results

Pos No. Driver Team Time Speed
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 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 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
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