RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Ryan Blaney is on a roll running for poles.
The Team Penske driver turned a lap of 119.782 mph at Richmond Raceway on Saturday to earn his third consecutive top starting spot in NASCAR’s top series. It’s the ninth pole for Blaney in 241 career starts, and his third this season.
William Byron will start on the outside of the front row, with Kyle Busch and Chase Briscoe in the second row, and Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. next. Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell and Aric Almirola complete the top 10.
Blaney is second in the driver standings behind Chase Elliott, and Blaney’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano is third.
“Qualifying on the pole here is one thing. Racing here is a completely other thing,” Blaney said, noting that he has struggled on the 0.75-mile oval.
“You’re not gonna run any laps in the race like we just ran in qualifying as far as how you drive the car. You just can’t abuse the tires like that or else you’re really gonna be struggling, so we made a really long run in practice,” Blaney said. “We made one 45-lapper and just try to get your head back in that mindset of, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got to do to save my tires,’ and things like that.”
He also hopes NASCAR’s move to the Next Gen car can change its fortunes.
“It’s kind of a fresh start for me having a new car here at this place and just working really hard with everybody at Penske on the 12 team to figure out, ‘OK, what do I need to do to just get more competitive here, ‘” he said.
Chevrolet is off to a fast start with the new car, winning four of the past five races, and Ford has won the other two. The top nine starting spots for Sunday’s race include three Chevrolets, three Fords and three Toyotas.
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