Ryan Blaney is on top once again at Pocono Raceway after grabbing the pole for Sunday afternoon’s race, which he won a year ago.
In the final round of qualifying, Blaney knocked Kevin Harvick from the top spot with a lap of 176.897 mph. Harvick, fastest in the first two rounds, missed the clean sweep with a lap of 176.807 mph. But he will start on the front row for the sixth time this season.
Pocono is the second pole for Blaney this season and the fourth of his career. When he won the race a year ago, Blaney held off Harvick in the closing laps.
“Everything,” said Blaney on where he improved. “It’s really hard to do this three-round deal because you have to keep improving your car, you can never just leave it alone. So 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 1 very good my first two rounds and finally figured out a better way to get through there, and it helped us out a lot. The changes [everyone] made were really good. Nice to be back here at Pocono, seems to be a good track for us and it’s nice to start up front.”
Harvick said he slipped getting into Turn 3.
“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 to the center and didn’t get off the brake and didn’t get back to partial throttle,” he explained.
“But really proud of everybody on our Busch Beer Ford, we had three good rounds. We picked up speed in every round, and that’s usually our goal, and I said that before qualifying. To pick a pace and try to run that pace and better that pace a little bit each round. So, it was a good qualifying round for us, and we’re in the front, so that’s where you want to be here.”
Rounding out the top five were Jamie McMurray (176.626 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (176.516 mph) and Kyle Busch (176.478 mph). Busch won the most recent Pocono race and enters the weekend off a dominating performance at Charlotte. He was fastest in the only Friday practice session.
Kurt Busch (176.208 mph), Joey Logano (176.184 mph), Ryan Newman (175.864 mph) Clint Bowyer (175.798 mph), and Denny Hamlin (175.792 mph) completed the top 10.
Other notables: Kyle Larson will start 13th, Jimmie Johnson 15th, Brad Keselowski 17th, Matt Kenseth 26th and Cole Custer 28th. Custer is making his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend in the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing.
Aric Almirola will start 34th after an unsuccessful first lap in which he told his team something was wrong, and the clock expired before he could try again.
“Our issue started way before that on our actual lap,” Almirola said of failing to advance. “We had a tire issue, one of our tires equalized they told me. My car was just out of control. We tried to take a big stab at it to try to go back out and salvage at least something out of it – we missed [the clock] by one second, but it didn’t matter. I drove down into Turn 1, and it still drove awkward. Disappointing but we’ll take it and move on.”
NEXT UP: Second practice at 11 a.m. ET Saturday.