Ryan Blaney backed up his top-of-the-charts practice speed at ISM Raceway, emerging quickest of all in the second and third rounds of qualifying Friday late afternoon.
With a lap of 25.480s (141.287 mph), Blaney’s Team Penske Ford Mustang earned the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 — his first pole of the season and his second at Phoenix, having started from the top spot at the track in the fall of 2017.
“It’s a good way to start off the weekend for sure,” said Blaney. “Qualifying hasn’t been our [strength] this year, but it’s the first short track we’ve been at. We’ve had speed all year, which has been a lot of fun, and we just kind of kept tweaking on it and tweaking on it …
“We’ll see how our car is tomorrow in [race] trim, but this sure was a lot of fun. Hopefully, it keeps going well for us.”
Blaney will be joined on the front row by Chase Elliott, the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver clocking a 140.171 mph best.
Completing the top five were Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (140.007 mph) and Kyle Busch (139.855), and Blaney’s Penske teammate Brad Keselowski (139.849).
Keselowski’s car, though, failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, with NASCAR ejecting a team member from the No. 2 group. Engineer Brandon Pope has been ejected for the remainder of the weekend and Keselowski will be docked 15 minutes from final practice Saturday afternoon.
Rounding out the top 10 were Alex Bowman (139.768), William Byron (139.567), Kevin Harvick (139.411), Martin Truex Jr. (139.206), and Erik Jones (138.991).
Harvick was fastest in the first round of qualifying and is the defending race winner.
Among those failing to advance to the final round of qualifying were Jimmie Johnson (15th) and Kurt Busch (16th). Those eliminated after the first round of qualifying included Clint Bowyer (26th) and Kyle Larson (31st).
UP NEXT: Second practice at 11:35 a.m. ET Saturday.