In the opening minutes of practice, if you would have told Ryan Blaney that he’d be leading the field to green in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, he likely wouldn’t believe you.
That’s because Blaney, a seven-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series, found himself spinning into the barriers with just under 12 minutes left in his group’s practice session at the 3.41-mile road course.
Yet, sure enough, Blaney was the quickest car in the second round of qualifying on Saturday morning, posting a lap time of 132.343 seconds (92.759 mph) to claim his eighth career pole in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Trackhouse Racing, on a streak of four consecutive events with an entry finishing inside the top-five, will hold the outside of the front row with Daniel Suarez’s No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet, after the Monterrey, Mexico-native came up just 0.026-seconds behind Blaney.
Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick – both in their third full season in the NASCAR Cup Series — will share the second row on Sunday, with Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman rounding out the top-five.
Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Justin Haley, and Austin Cindric all advanced into the second round of qualifying, and will round out the top-10 starters.
Chase Elliott, last year’s winner at Circuit of The Americas, failed to advance to the second round, starting the event in 12th, directly in front of teammate Kyle Larson.
Other notables included Kyle Busch (15th), Martin Truex Jr. (17th), Kevin Harvick (18th), AJ Allmendinger (20th), William Byron (24th), Aric Almirola (25th), and Brad Keselowski (26th).
Andy Lally – driving for Live Fast Motorsports — was unable to post a time in qualifying due to multiple inspection failures, which will also require him to serve a pass-through penalty on the first lap of the event.
Joey Hand – in his first of six scheduled road course events for Rick Ware Racing — had a tire issue in the series’ 20-minute practice session, sending the team to the garage, unable to make it out in time for qualifying.
With only 39 cars entered into Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA, all drivers and teams will take the green flag on Sunday afternoon.