Surprise, surprise, surprise. Ryan Blaney stole the spotlight Friday winning his fourth career Cup pole at the track where he won his first career Cup win last June, Pocono Raceway.
All the attention was on this season hottest rivalry Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Harvick swept the first two rounds as Kyle Busch finished second in Round 2. Busch went out first as soon as the five-minute clock started for the final round and took provisional pole; Harvick was just behind and stole the top spot. Blaney would have none of it and came across the line right behind the two putting down a lap of 50.877 seconds, 176.897 mph.
“We just kept getting better each round,” Blaney said. “Everybody did a great job of realizing what we had to do to get better and pick out of spots where to get better and the car had the speed in it, we just needed to handle good and I needed to hit a good lap.”
Harvick will start beside him in second.
“I thought we did a really good job of trying to pick a pace and trying not to be a hero on every lap,” Harvick said. “We were able to pick up a tenth in each round. We got a little loose there in three and I didn’t want to tug on the wheel any more just because of the fact I didn’t want it to get any looser so I just let it slide to the center and had to wait and gave up a good solid tenth there.”
Busch, who led Friday’s lone practice was bumped to fifth after late round runs by Jamie McMurray who secured third and Martin Truex Jr. who will start fourth.
“We were very sloppy the entire time,” Busch said. “All three rounds, we just missed it every time. One corner or the other, just couldn’t get it all put together. Car was fast and I felt like our guys did a really good job but the driver didn’t.”
Kyle’s elder sibling Kurt will start sixth, while Blaney’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano will start seventh.
Blaney, who was eighth Friday’s practice, was relatively quiet the first two rounds of qualifying finishing fifth and third respectively in the first two rounds.
He saved his best for last to grab his second pole of the season.
Ryan Newman will start eighth with Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top ten. Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon were the last of the 12 cars to make it through to the final round.
In last year’s June race Blaney held off Harvick for his first career Cup win and no doubt hopes for the same scenario Sunday.
With 38 cars entered for 40 spots, no one was sent home.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. Sunday.