A surging sophomore emerged after Friday night’s NASCAR LIS inspection led to a confusing round of qualifying in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Ryan Blaney scored his first career pole at Kansas Speedway and will lead the field to green in Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400.
“I didn’t know during the first two rounds if we would have enough. The Nos. 18 and 4 were really fast. We got our car better and better each round and that is what you want,” Blaney said. “We have been really close a couple times this year but it feels good to get it done. I know it is only qualifying but it feels really cool to get this first pole. It says a lot about this entire team.”
Fellow Ford driver Joey Logano will start alongside the driver of the No. 21 and missed the top spot by a mere 0.06 seconds. That was enough to rankle the young talent a bit despite a strong weekend up to this point.
“I can think of a couple spots, when I dissect it, where we could have had more speed,” Logano recalled. “Congratulations to Blaney. It is a big deal for him. I just hate being second. I have to be honest. Man, I just think a little off of two and a little off of four [cost us the pole]. Those ones always sting, believe me. The greedy side of me wants the pole so bad but the realistic side says we made huge improvements from practice, so I am proud of that.”
Martin Truex Jr., who has led more than 170 laps twice at Kansas starts third, followed by Talladega winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch will start on row three. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott round out the top-10 drivers.
Their runs were overshadowed by who didn’t make the grid. Just like the last mile-and-a-half track the series visited (Texas) several cars failed to make it through pre-qualifying inspection. That left them with no official speed and starting Saturday night at the rear of the field.
In total, 11 cars – Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Erik Jones, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Landon Cassill, Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie, Timmy Hill and Carl Long – didn’t make it through the LIS inspection station and were not allowed to qualify.
“It’s something that everybody pushes to the limit, and they want to be right on the limit,” Scott Miller, NASCAR Vice President of Competition said in the garage Friday. “Obviously, 11 of them were over the limit.
“28 teams presented cars that did pass inspection, so it’s certainly possible for the others to get it right.”
Miller wasn’t specific, though he did say the sanctioning body would assess whether stiffer penalties would be needed in the future for those teams that don’t make it through inspection at the track.
While some drivers were confused, or wouldn’t speculate on why their cars wouldn’t pass, others were a little more outspoken.
“This is just, wow. Super disappointing. You are off ten-thousandths of an inch. It is ridiculous,” Bowyer said. “Most people can’t even understand how little that is. I get it. If you are off, you are off, but I watched my guys move the car and adjust the car accordingly for it and then actually overcompensate on it because we were worried about not making it. Then, they wheel it back in and fail the exact same amount? Twice? That makes no sense. None.”
There was some chatter throughout the garage that the actual LIS process could be to blame, and one team member even said the same setup that passed the station earlier in the day failed before qualifying.
The Go Bowling 400 runs Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
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