LONG POND, Pa. – Ryan Blaney began his pursuit of a repeat at Pocono Raceway in the best way possible on Friday, by winning his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole of the season for the Pocono 400.
Blaney, who earned his first series victory in this event last year at Pocono Raceway while driving the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford, edged Kevin Harvick by a scant .026 of a second to earn the pole in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.
Ironically, it was Harvick that Blaney had to beat coming to the finish line last year when he won the Pocono 400. He beat Harvick again on Friday after circling the 2.5-mile semi-banked asphalt oval in 50.877 seconds for an average speed of 176.897 mph.
“We always say its harder to do this three round deal because you have to keep improving your car, you can never just leave it alone,” said Blaney, who now has four career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series poles. “We changed stuff from round to round and we made a great, great change before the last round to figure out what we need.
“I didn’t hit turn one very good my first two rounds and then finally figured out a better way to get through there,” Blaney said. “The changes Jeremy (Bullins), Andrea (Mueler) and Grant (Hutchens) made were really, really good.”
Harvick paced the first two rounds of knockout qualifying but got beat in the final five minute session by Blaney. Harvick will start second after putting together a 50.903-second lap in the final round, a lap he felt could have been even better.
“I slipped a little bit getting into three. The car started just to slide on entry and I didn’t want to pull the wheel or move it any further than I already had, so I just let it slide the center and didn’t get off the brake and didn’t get back to partial throttle,” Harvick said. “We had three good rounds. We picked up speed in every round and that’s usually our goal.
“It was a good qualifying round for us. We’re in the front and that’s where you want to be here.”
Jamie McMurray qualified third, the best of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 contingent with a 50.955-second lap. Martin Truex Jr. was the best of the Toyota camp, qualifying fourth. Coca-Cola 600 winner Kyle Busch will start fifth alongside his brother, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch.
Joey Logano qualified seventh, with Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon completing the top dozen.
Other notables include Kyle Larson (13th), Alex Bowman (14th), Jimmie Johnson (15th), Brad Keselowski (17th), Erik Jones (25th), Matt Kenseth (26th) and Aric Almirola (34th).