Ryan Blaney has never finished in the top five before in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action at Phoenix. He’s also had some bad luck to start the 2019 season off with too. Because of that, he had 40-1 odds of winning Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 (3:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). But, that didn’t slow him down on Friday.
Blaney, topped the speed charts in the lone practice session of the day at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix. He also won the pole for Sunday’s race too. The Team Penske driver won his second pole in seven Phoenix starts and sixth in 130 Cup Series starts overall. He circled the 1.015-mile track in the third and final round of Busch Pole qualified with a speed of 141.287 mph in his No. 12 Ford.
Ryan Blaney during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway on March 8, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona.
If Penske is going to win for a third straight week with a third different driver, Blaney is showing he can be the guy.
Chase Elliott will join him on the front row with the Hendrick Motorsports driver turning in a lap of 140.171 mph. It will be his sixth top 10 starting spot in seven career Phoenix races.
Row 2 is an all Joe Gibbs Racing row with Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin (140.007 mph) lining up third and Kyle Busch (139.855 mph) starting fourth. Busch, won the last race at Phoenix back in the fall and finished runner-up in this race last March.
Brad Keselowski (139.849 mph) rounded out the top five.
Phoenix king Kevin Harvick will start eighth. A couple of big named drivers didn’t make it out of the first round as Clint Bowyer will start 26th and Kyle Larson 31st.
Speaking of the first round, we saw an actual fight on pit road following it. What was weird is, it happened between two of the nicest drivers in the garage.
Daniel Suarez was mad that Michael McDowell slowed him up on his run in the first round. McDowell, said it wasn’t intentional but grew upset with Suarez when the Stewart-Haas Racing driver tried to wreck him on the cool down lap back to pit road.
That led to Suarez confronting McDowell on pit lane and the two shoving. Suarez, tackled McDowell to the ground before being pinned against McDowell’s hood of his No. 34 Ford after.
“He was in my way in the corner of (Turns) 1 and 2 and I assumed he would get out of my way in Turn 3 and 4 and he didn’t,” Suarez told reporters following the fracas. “He was in my way for the entire second lap and he messed up my opening of the third lap. So, he pretty much messed up my whole qualifying. …
“I’m the kind of driver that I’m going to give a lot of respect to you, always, if you give me respect back. If you don’t give me respect, I’m going to go kick your ass.”
McDowell, minutes after the fisticuffs, was back to his jovial self, grinning and saying there isn’t much to it all. He said this is a byproduct of the new qualifying rules where everyone sits at the end of pit road and only has limited time to make a clean lap.
“It was kind of chaotic out there. I’d be upset, too. I messed up his lap but then he tried to crash us,” said the Front Row Motorsports driver. “I made a mistake, an honest mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s just part of it. … It’s not how we wanted it to go. It hurt us as well.
“When you mess with somebody’s lap I understand they’re frustrated. But when you try to hurt somebody and damage hundreds of thousands of dollars of race cars, that takes it to a whole other level.”
TicketGuardian 500 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott
Row 2: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch
Row 3: Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman
Row 4: William Byron, Kevin Harvick
Row 5: Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones
Row 6: Daniel Hemric R, Joey Logano
Row 7: Austin Dillon, Aric Almiorla
Row 8: Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch
Row 9: Paul Menard, Ryan Newman
Row 10: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ty Dillon
Row 11: Ryan Preece R, Chris Buescher
Row 12: Darrell Wallace Jr., Corey LaJoie
Row 13: Matt DiBenedetto, Clint Bowyer
Row 14: Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez
Row 15: David Ragan, Matt Tifft R
Row 16: Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill
Row 17: Ross Chastain, Cody Ware R
Row 18: Quin Houff, Bayley Currey