Sprint Cup rookie Ryan Blaney had a lot to learn in a hurry on Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Never having driven anything but a Camping World Series truck at the track before Friday, Blaney had to figure things out in a hurry if he was going to get the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in the starting field for Sunday’s Kobalt 400.
He ran just 16 laps in practice, posting a best lap at 187.389 miles per hour, which was 30th fastest. When it came time for knock-out qualifying, he had to be faster than 12 of the 48 entrants, or he and his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team would miss the race as the team does not run a full schedule and therefore has no provisional starting spot to use in the event of a poor qualifying effort.
With that pressure on his young shoulders, Blaney went out and posted a speed of 189.447 mph on his second lap to secure the 30th starting position for Sunday’s race. That speed was more than two miles per hour faster than his best lap in practice.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that even though Blaney was disappointed in the qualifying position, the rest of the crew wasn’t.
“We’re just really happy to make the race,” Wood said. “Including his qualifying laps, Ryan only has 19 laps on this track in a Sprint Cup car, so to make the race in such a competitive environment is a major accomplishment.”
Wood pointed out that in most instances, having a young driver run both the Xfinity and Cup races at a new venue would be a big help in adapting to the Cup car, but that wasn’t the case this week at Las Vegas because the Xfinity practices were after the lone Cup practice session on Friday.
Blaney is proving to be a quick study, as his Team Penske Mustang was in the top 10 in both Xfinity practices.
“The important thing is the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion made the race,” Wood said. “And Ryan will be good come Sunday.”
Wood Brothers Racing PR