Blaney Snags First Bristol Pole Ahead Of Food City 500


Ryan Blaney en route to the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday. (Scotte Sprinkle/Race Face Digital photo)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – In a dominant time trial session for the Ford Mustang Dark Horse, Ryan Blaney was the fastest of all during Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday evening at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Blaney lapped the .533-mile concrete high banks in 15.356 seconds (124.954 mph) in the final knockout round en route to his 10th career NASCAR Cup Series pole and first at Bristol.

It puts the No. 12 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford in prime position early for Sunday’s Food City 500, as he’ll lead the field to green at the track billed as the World’s Fastest Half Mile.

“Proud of the whole Menards group; our Ford Mustang Dark Horse was fast all day,” said Blaney. “We were really good in round one, and made some adjustments … and I think the track caught everyone by surprise in the second round, honestly. The time falloff, the grip loss behind the wheel … it was incredible, it was huge. It was like, ‘Who can not mess up the lap and still put a decent time down.

“That was fun, in a way. It was fun working through [the challenge],” Blaney added. “I wish I could even do it over again and make our car even better, because I think there was still some more [lap time] out there. But I’m excited for everyone here with Team Penske and it’s cool to get our first pole of the year.”

Ultimately, five Blue Ovals ended up inside the top seven grid spots, with Blaney flanked on the front row by Stewart-Haas Racing rookie Josh Berry in the best qualifying effort of his young Cup Series career.

Berry was a scant .02 seconds off of the pole-winning time, turning a lap of 15.376 seconds (124.792 mph) in the No. 4 SUNNYD Ford. It’s the best starting spot by an SHR Cup Series driver this season.

Toyota’s Denny Hamlin qualified third for Joe Gibbs Racing alongside the Team Penske Ford of Joey Logano, with Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott ending as the highest Chevrolet driver in fifth.

Chase Briscoe, Michael McDowell, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, and Kyle Larson closed the group of 10 drivers that advanced through both knockout rounds in a sketchy session that saw a large amount of falloff between rounds and treacherous grip levels bite numerous experienced veterans in the process.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. (Group B) and Christopher Bell (Group A) were the fastest drivers in their respective groups who failed to advance to the pole round and will share row six Sunday.

Other notable drivers deeper in the lineup include multi-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch (14th), Brad Keselowski (17th), Austin Cindric (21st), Tyler Reddick (23rd), Daniel Suarez (28th), and past Bristol Night Race winner Chris Buescher (34th).

Suarez’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain struggled on his qualifying run and will start last in the 36-car field on Sunday afternoon.

Broadcast coverage of Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET, live on FOX, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.