Another Friday, another front-row qualifying effort for Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
Blaney’s outside pole at Richmond International Raceway on Friday was his second in the past three races, including a rained-out qualifying session at Bristol where he started sixth. It also was his third outside pole in his last six attempts, including second-place efforts at Phoenix and Texas.
It’s the best Richmond qualifying effort for the Wood Brothers team since the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly started on the outside pole there in the fall of 1960. Team owner Glen Wood also started second at Richmond in the fall of 1959.
Just as they have nearly every weekend this season, crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew have unloaded fast Ford Fusions for the start of practice. Richmond was no different as Blaney was third fastest in Friday’s opening practice with a best lap at 122.772 miles per hour.
Then in knock-out qualifying, he was 19th in the first round with a lap at 119.290 mph, ninth in the second round with a a speed of 120.064 mph and second in the run for the pole with a lap at 120.854 mph.
“It was a good effort,” Blaney said in his post-qualifying media session. “I didn’t think we were very good in Round One… We got better for Round Two and obviously better for Round Three.”
Blaney said the gains in speed and positions as the qualifying session progressed are a sign of improvement for him, Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew in their second full year together.
“That is something our team has done really well this year, improving from round to round,” he said. “That is an area where we struggled last year. We would always kind of go backwards from round to round last year, and this year it is kind of opposite which is a lot better.
“That is just communicating what we need on the car and talking about where the track goes. That has been a positive this year and something we worked on in the off-season.”
It’s also a sign of a significant turn-around at Richmond, which confounded Blaney and his team last year.
“I thought this was our worst race track last year,” he said. “Both races went really bad for us, and I know it is early in the weekend but I feel we have turned it around a lot from what it was here last year.
“That is a positive to look at.”
It’s also kind of like the icing on the cake, he said.
“It is fun regardless to be with the Wood Brothers, but when you are fast it makes it a little extra,” he said. “I think we are right on pace to where we need to be and getting better every single week.
“It is all about keeping on going so that you never really settle. I don’t think we are that way, and I think that is what makes this team really good.”