AVONDALE, Ariz. – After watching his Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney go to victory lane in each of the past two weeks, Ryan Blaney took a step towards equaling them on Friday at ISM Raceway.
Blaney rocketed to the pole for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at the one-mile desert oval, posting a time of 25.480 seconds (141.287 mph) with his No. 12 MoneyLion Ford Mustang.
The High Point, N.C., driver was the only man to crack the 141-mph bracket in the final round of qualifying, scoring his sixth career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole, first of the season and second at ISM Raceway.
With a shot of momentum in his pocket, Blaney will take aim at his first win of the year and securing a Cup Series playoff berth later in the weekend.
“This is a good way to start our weekend, for sure,” said Blaney. “Qualifying hasn’t been our best (aspect) this year, but this is our first short track of the season. We’ve had a lot of speed all day and it’s been a lot of fun so far.
“We just kind of tweaked on our car and it paid off,” he added. “It’s nice to have MoneyLion on the car, too. This is their first Cup race with us, so it’s a big deal and nice way to start our association with them.”
Starting alongside Blaney on Sunday will be his longtime friend Chase Elliott, who qualified second with a lap of 25.683 seconds (140.171 mph) in the No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
“I hate qualifying second, man,” Elliott lamented. “That’s two in a row – last fall and now this one – where we’ve just missed out on the pole. I suppose Blaney isn’t a bad one to start second to, though. We’ve got a good place to start and good pit selection; I just want a pole outside of a speedway track.
“I think our car will be good on Sunday, and then we’ll try this qualifying thing again next week.”
Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin will start third in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, giving each manufacturer representation in the top-three spots of Sunday’s grid.
Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch and Blaney’s teammate Brad Keselowski completed the top five.
Local favorite Alex Bowman rolls off sixth, followed by rookie William Byron, nine-time ISM Raceway winner Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Daniel Hemric and defending champion Joey Logano.
Jones bumped Austin Dillon out of the top 12 as time expired at the end of the second round, leaving Dillon to start 13th (25.924/138.867) on Sunday in the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell were among those eliminated in the first round of qualifying on Friday, with that duo later engaging in a short-lived scuffle on pit road afterward.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams return to ISM Raceway on Saturday for a pair of practice sessions, at 11:30 a.m. ET and 2 p.m. ET, respectively.