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Ryan Blaney will lead the field to the starting line in Saturday night’s 2017 Go Bowling 400 after posting the best time in the final round of qualifying Friday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. It’s the first pole of the Wood Brothers Racing driver’s career.
The number of cars unable to pass technical inspection in time to enter the qualifying fray was the other top storyline Friday evening. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were the most notable names among the 12 teams that never made it onto the track.
Here’s a look at the complete qualifying results for the 11th race of the season:
|2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Kansas Qualifying|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||78||28.541|
|4||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||17||28.594|
|—||Eliminated in Round 2||—||—|
|—||Eliminated in Round 1||—||—|
|33||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||DNP|
Blaney has made a habit of starting near the front all year. He’s started seventh or better in six of the season’s first 10 races. Being able to translate that success into equally strong finishes has been a problem, however, as he’s earned just three top-10 results.
Tim Durr of Fox Sports passed along comments from the 23-year-old rising star, who was surprised his time was good enough to get the top spot.
“I didn’t think I got through that lap that great. I came out with a pretty decent time, and it was enough for it,” Blaney said. “I think we’ve been second three times this year, so that was getting old. It’s so cool to sit on the pole. That’s something I’ve really wanted to do. Qualifying probably isn’t my best suit, but we got better and better, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Earnhardt congratulated Blaney on winning pole position:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. @DaleJr
I look up from beating LIS machine with baseball bat and see @Blaney got the pole? Awesome job!! He’s part of the future and its gonna be🤘🏼
5/12/2017, 11:39:52 PM
Kansas Speedway highlighted him putting his prize to immediate use:
Kansas Speedway @kansasspeedway
.@Blaney takes a ride on his new mini-kart 😂
Perks of being a #GB400 pole winner. https://t.co/k7EB7eILIR
5/12/2017, 11:58:16 PM
Races where so many contending teams aren’t able to produce qualifying results are always more unpredictable. It brings more variables into play, especially in terms of the potential for early wrecks as everyone tries to navigate through the field.
Johnson in particular will remain dangerous despite starting deep in the pack. He’s scored three victories and 17 top-10 finishes in 21 career starts at Kansas Speedway, where his average finish of 8.9 is the fourth-best of any track he’s raced on, per Yahoo Sports.
Blaney will be the focus, though. He’s one of the sport’s most promising young drivers, so this is the first of what’s likely to become a double-digit pole total for his career. That said, turning good qualification into a top-five finish on race day is the next step he must take.
The Go Bowling 400 is scheduled for Saturday night at 7:30 ET on Fox Sports 1.