Ryan Blaney’s second career pole came at an opportune time.
Facing a 22-point deficit going into the playoffs final elimination race at Phoenix International Raceway, Blaney laid down the fastest lap in the third round of qualifying. At 137.942 mph, Blaney grabbed the pole for the Can-Am 500 over Denny Hamlin. Hamlin’s best lap was 137.936 mph.
Blaney’s first pole came in May at Kansas Speedway. Sunday’s race will be his fourth start at Phoenix in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“That was a good run for us. We got better each round,” Blaney. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be enough, I didn’t think I got the best lap out there and I tried to get more the second lap and messed up.
“Really cool; we started second here in the spring race and it’s nice to be on the pole here. Sitting on a pole at a short track – never thought I would be doing that. Can’t thank SKF and Quick Lane, Motorcraft, for what they do. Good start to the weekend and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Completing the top five were Kyle Larson (137.926 mph), Chase Elliott (137.641 mph), and Martin Truex Jr. (137.583 mph).
The rest of the top 10 were Kevin Harvick (137.247 mph), Matt Kenseth (137.190 mph), Kyle Busch (137.075 mph), Joey Logano (136.711 mph), and Daniel Suarez (136.467 mph). Logano is the defending race winner at Phoenix.
Jimmie Johnson qualified 12th at 136.224 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 14th in his final race at Phoenix. Earnhardt’s fastest lap in the second round of qualifying was 136.322 mph.
As he was in Friday’s practice session, Brad Keselowski wound up the slowest of the playoff drivers. Keselowski will start 16th following a lap of 136.302 mph. He holds just a 19-point lead on Hamlin, who is the first driver below the cutline.
“We’ll find out. Short race,” Keselowski said of getting the job done from his spot on the grid. “If there’s a track to qualify well, this is one of them. Not where we want to start, but when the track gets hot and slick we seem to run here better than when it cools up at night. I don’t know, maybe that’s my style and I’m not sure.
“We’ll go race and see what we got. But I feel like when it gets hot we’ll be right there.”
UP NEXT: Second practice at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday.