Ryan Blaney recorded a 92.759-second/132.343 mph lap in the second round of a two-round NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday to claim the pole for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. It’s Blaney’s second pole in the first six races of the 2022 season, the second-straight for races preceded by a qualifying session.
Blaney’s Saturday didn’t get off to such a positive start, as he hit a barrier in the early minutes of practice. Still, he managed to post the fifth-fastest lap among drivers in the first group to make qualifying laps in the opening round.
“Talk about an up and down day, for sure, putting it in the barriers on my third lap of practice and not knowing if the car was killed or if we had to go to a backup or what it would take to fix it,” Blaney said. “It ripped my left side mirror off right when I hit the barriers, so I couldn’t see the left side of the car when I was coming back to the pits, and I didn’t know how bad the damage was. I knew my wheel was straight and I had flat spots, but I got out of the car and looked at it, and it scuffed it up but it was nothing too bad. They went through everything thoroughly and looked at stuff and nothing was bent. We got really lucky, honestly, right there, from a mistake of mine. Really lucky I hit those plastic blocks or whatever they are. We should put those things everywhere. Then, to go out and have speed to put it on the pole. I didn’t know if we were even going to be able to qualify when I wrecked, and to be able to come back and have a fast enough car to make it to the second round and, then, get a good lap in during the final round and barely beat Daniel [Suarez], there, that was really fun. Yeah, an up and down day, and it is nice to end it on a high note.”
Cole Custer was fastest in the first round, leading a group of five drivers that also included Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and Denny Hamlin in advancing from round one to round two in qualifying. Daniel Suarez, then, was the fastest among drivers in the second group in round one to advance to the final round and claim the other front-row starting position for Sunday’s race.
“Honestly, I just love road course racing,” Suarez said ahead of qualifying. “I find it fascinating. I find it fun. I find it different. I grew up racing go-karts. I never actually raced big cars on road course tracks. A little in NASCAR in Mexico, but not much. But I just enjoy it a lot. I feel that I’ve always been strong at it, but I’ve never been super strong. I have a lot of faith that this car is going to make that difference. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to find that out and see where we can do it. Right now, I don’t think anyone is the favorite because everything is new. Here in a couple of hours, we’re going to find out a lot about who has the speed and who doesn’t.”
Suarez’s second was the best qualifying result, to date, for Trackhouse Racing.
Other drivers advancing to the second round of qualifying from group two included Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano and Alex Bowman.
Custer and Reddick qualified third and fourth, and Bowman was fifth. Logano qualified sixth, Bell seventh, Hamlin eighth, Haley ninth and Cindric 10th.
ECHOPARK AUTOMOTIVE GRAND PRIX STARTING LINEUP