Ryan Blaney thought he’d have to go faster in the second round to start on pole for Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway, after posting the fastest-overall lap in the first round of NASCAR Cup Series qualifying.
However, despite running one-hundredth of a second slower in round two, Blaney was able to capture his seventh pole in the NASCAR Cup Series and his third at Phoenix, with a 27.127 second-lap (132.709mph).
Denny Hamlin – whose start to the season has been dreadful — will start Sunday’s 312-lap event from second-place, with William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Aric Almirola rounding out the top-five starters.
Chase Briscoe, Kyle Larson, Austin Cindric, Alex Bowman, and Joey Logano rounded out the drivers that advanced to the second round of Saturday’s qualifying session.
Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Dillon will start 11th through 13th in the event, despite posting times inside the overall top-10 in the first round of qualifying, calling into question the legitimacy of NASCAR’s new qualifying format for 2022.
Austin Cindric – a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series — continued an incredibly strong run of top-10 qualifying efforts on Saturday, notching his sixth in eight races at NASCAR’s top-level that featured a qualifying session.
Additionally, the reigning Daytona 500 winner is the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to start inside the top-10 in each of the four events this season.
.@AustinCindric has recorded six top-10 starts in his eight NASCAR Cup Series events where there was a qualifying session.
The @Team_Penske driver is the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to start inside the top-10 in each race this season.#NASCAR | #SrigleyStats pic.twitter.com/YSejfXMk9j
— Joseph Srigley (@joe_srigley) March 12, 2022
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the only driver that failed to post a time in qualifying on Saturday after his JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet had an engine issue at the end of practice.