AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ryan Blaney recovered from a spin in practice to win the pole for Sunday’s race at Circuit of the Americas.
Blaney spun in Saturday morning practice and contact with the wall left a scratch on the back of the No. 12 Ford. Team Penske had him ready to go when qualifying began and Blaney advanced into the final round, where his lap of 92.759 mph earned him the eighth pole of his career.
“I wouldn’t have thought we’d sit on the pole after I hit the fence,” Blaney said while praising NASCAR’s new Next Gen racecar for its durability. “I appreciate the soft wall that was over there and the resilient race car.”
Daniel Suarez qualified second alongside Blaney in a Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing. The Mexican driver anticipated a strong turnout of supporters at what’s essentially a home race.
“This is one of the few races that my friends and family can actually come from home and drive here, so it’s amazing to have a lot of Mexican fans in the stands and in the pits,” said Suarez, who made Friday sponsor appearances at Austin-area schools and “was impressed with the amount of kids that were speaking to me in Spanish.”
“That’s really amazing for me. That made me feel like home. I’m looking forward to seeing some Mexican flags in the grandstands on Sunday,” Suarez said.
Cole Custer qualified third in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and will start next to Tyler Reddick in a Chevrolet from Richard Childress Racing.
Alex Bowman was the highest-qualifying driver from Hendrick Motorsports at fifth, followed by Blaney teammate Joey Logano. Christopher Bell in seventh was the top Toyota, one spot ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
Justin Haley for Kaulig Racing and Austin Cindric of Penske completed the top 10.
Chase Elliott, the defending race winner and the only one of the four Hendrick drivers without a win so far this year, qualified 12th.
Sunday’s race at COTA is NASCAR’s second appearance at the permanent road course best known for its annual Formula One race. Speedway Motorsports has leased the track to promote the race, the first of six road courses on the 2022 schedule.
The combination of NASCAR’s new car and a road course — where the field is truly even because the circuit is so new to stock cars — brought new faces to Sunday’s field: Loris Hezemans will make his Cup Series debut for Team Hezeberg, the team that debuted in the Daytona 500 with Jacques Villeneuve.
Boris Said, a veteran road racer, is making his first Cup start since 2017. Andy Lally, a one-time NASCAR rookie of the year, is in the race but could not qualify after his car failed inspection. He’ll serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race.
Joey Hand, brought in by Ford, also could not post a qualifying lap after a tire problem in practice caused significant damage to his car. He’ll start 38th.
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