RICHMOND, Va. – While a Ford Mustang did win the pole in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying Friday evening at Richmond Raceway, two Ford drivers were left scratching their heads.
Both Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman failed to advance past the first round of knockout qualifying at the three-quarter-mile oval, leaving them buried in the field for the Toyota Owners 400.
Blaney will start 29th on Saturday night, while Newman will roll off 31st. In stark contrast, Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford on Saturday night.
For Blaney, who waited until the waning moments of the first five-minute round to take his qualifying lap, it was a lack of grip around the Richmond asphalt that derailed his lap.
The Team Penske driver could only muster a lap of 21.849 seconds (123.575 mph) with the No. 12 MoneyLion Ford Mustang.
“No grip was the biggest thing we fought,” said Blaney. “The race track had no rubber on it from all the rain and we waited to be one of the last cars out and that didn’t work out too well. That is the way it goes. I thought the race car was good today.
“Hopefully we can drive up through the field and get a win for MoneyLion and Ford.”
For Newman, his issues stemmed from a combination of a lack of speed and congestion on the track during the shortened round that came as a result of rule changes for qualifying that were issued mid-week by NASCAR officials.
Newman posted a time of 21.898 seconds (123.299 mph) with the No. 6 Roush Performance Ford Mustang.
“(It was a) little bit of both,” noted Newman. “It actually drove pretty good – and we typically lack some short run speed here, or at least I do with the setup that we run. We will take the Roush Performance Ford and go back to the trailer and look at where we were and see how we can get better compared to the other cars.
“It isn’t really going to change anything,” he added. “It is what it is for now.”
Then, ever the humorous one, Newman departed with one of his famed dry one-liners.
“I think I should have just stayed in my bus.”