Ryan Blaney takes Kansas pole as 11 fail to pass inspection
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) Ryan Blaney was all alone atop the leaderboard Friday during qualifying at Kansas Speedway.
He probably felt all alone on the track, too.
Blaney earned his first career NASCAR Cup pole for Saturday night’s race, but only after traffic jams at inspection prevented 11 cars from getting on the track. Among the big names that failed to turn a lap were Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne.
The left just 28 cars for Blaney to beat for the right to start up front.
”It feels really good. We got better and better each round and that’s all you can ask for,” he said. ”It’s so cool to sit on the pole. We’ve been working really hard at it. We’ve been getting close – qualifying hasn’t been my best suit, but we’ve been getting better and better.”
Joey Logano will start second and Martin Truex Jr. third, while drivers that failed to get through inspection will start at the back based on car owner points.
”This is just, wow. Super disappointing,” Bowyer said. ”You’re off 10-thousandths of an inch? It’s ridiculous. Most people can’t even understand how little that is. I get it. If you’re off, you’re off, but I watched my guys move the car and adjust the car accordingly for it and then actually overcompensate on it because we were worried about not making it. Then they wheel it back in and fail the exact same amount? Twice? That makes no sense. None.”
NASCAR has been closely monitoring tech stations this season, resulting in several cases where numerous cars failed to take the track. But the 11 cars that sat parked in the garage at Kansas was the most this year, raising red flags at a time the sport is trying to keep and attract fans.
”The only thing I’m not too sure about is how so many cars cannot get through,” said David Ragan, whose care also failed inspection. ”Everybody is not trying to cheat on the same thing.”
NASCAR changed qualifying tech procedures this year, which could be partly to blame for the trouble. Teams only go through a quick safety and fuel cell check prior to practice, though they can voluntarily go through any of the four technical areas, so many don’t know they’re out of compliance until they’re trying to get on the track for qualifying.
Teams are also required to go through the entire inspection process again if a car fails any of the stations, a time-consuming endeavor that has contributed to the long waits.
NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said most of the trouble has been at the laser inspection, which is a significant performance metric and an area where teams push the limits.
”It’s fairly disappointing that they can’t present their cars to pass inspection,” Miller said, adding that there are built-in tolerances that give teams some leeway. ”They want to be right on the limit and 11 of them were over the limit.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified fourth after his first career win last weekend at Talladega, while Kyle Busch will start fifth and Kurt Busch sixth. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-10 on a windy, sun-splashed afternoon.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Earnhardt will be among those starting at the back.
”A lot of cars didn’t get a chance to go out and a lot of cars had trouble,” Johnson said. ”I’m not the best at qualifying anyway, so this takes all the pressure off me and what I have to do behind the wheel, and I love passing cars. There’s a lot of room on this track so we’ll be just fine.”
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