Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team took another big step in their building process by winning the pole for Saturday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Kansas Speedway.
It was Blaney’s first career Cup pole, and it came in his 65th race. It was the 117th pole for his Wood Brothers team, which has now won poles with 12 drivers, including team founder Glen Wood, who won the team’s first pole at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 12, 1958, and went on to win the team’s next five poles and 14 altogether. The most recent pole winner before Blaney was Ricky Rudd, who earned the pole at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2004.
Blaney, who has qualified on the outside pole three times this season, said it was “really nice” to finally earn the top starting spot.
“We have been second three times this year and they have all been really close,” he said. “It is nice to be on the other side of it. I can’t be more proud of everyone on the 21 team.”
One of the keys to his success on Friday at Kansas – and in earlier qualifying sessions this season - was his team’s ability to make the car faster for each of the three rounds of knockout qualifying.
In qualifying, Blaney was sixth fastest in the first round with a lap at 188.798 miles per hour and fourth best in the second round with a lap at 189.480 mph. The he ran a lap at 189.600 mph to take the pole.
“We got better and better each round,” Blaney said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
On Friday, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was among the leaders in practice as well, posting the second-fastest lap in opening practice and the fourth-best in the final Happy Hour practice.
Blaney explained that his team has improved since last year due in large part to hard work over the off-season and a lot of support from Ford Motor Co.
“Ford and everybody have made a big dedication to our team, really all the Ford teams,” he said.
“They have stepped up. I think you see it this year, not only in qualifying but racing as well.
“That is what it boils down to. It is nice to be part of a team that is so hardworking and dedicated to be faster every week. It feels nice as a driver.”
Starting just behind Blaney are three other Ford drivers in the top six - outside pole-sitter Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch.
Blaney said that while he’s especially proud of the pole, Saturday’s race is another matter altogether.
“Obviously they are two completely separate things, and you can’t set your hopes too high from getting the pole or starting well,” he said. “The race will be completely different when it cools down tomorrow night. Race trim will be completely different, but I thought our race trim car [in practice] was pretty good to where we can make minor adjustments on it.”
Blaney also said that he and crew chief Jeremy Bullins have a fair amount of experience at Kansas, where they both made their Cup debut in 2014.
“I feel like we have good notes here from previous years to look back on and adjust accordingly to what we need,” he said. “That is another thing we have done well this year. We have qualified well but we can adjust from practice to the race to be able to run up front and make minor adjustments instead of throwing everything at it.
“I think we have a decent shot at it. I just can’t really tell you right now. I will let you know about Lap 30 tomorrow.”
The GoBowling.com 400 is scheduled to start just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday (7:30 Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.