By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – In qualifying for the Bank of America ROVAL 400, Ryan Blaney avoided the trouble that some of his Playoff Grid rivals encountered.
His Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski was not as lucky, breaking the power-steering pump after hitting one of the blue ‘turtle’ curbs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
Compared to the first round of qualifying, the second round was tame. Blaney ended up ninth on the starting grid, running a 105.919 mph, 1:17.493 second lap. He was the seventh-fastest driver in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“I think if you can qualify up towards the front that’s gonna be great, but you never know how things are gonna play out with cautions and pit strategy and things like that,” Blaney said. “You can get shuffled to the back pretty quick, so just try to stay up front and stay out of potential danger because you don’t know how this race is gonna go.
“People have been saying it’s gonna be wild and crazy and, yeah, it may have moments of being like that, but I don’t think it’ll be the whole race like that. I think it is really important to qualify up front.”
Blaney also hit one of those curbs No. 12 Menards / Pennzoil Ford Fusion in the first round of qualifying. Luckily, he only suffered minor fender damage. Blaney was 12th-fastest in the first round, the final car to transfer into the second and final round of qualifying.
“I do think qualifying towards the front is important everywhere, but here especially because the track is so tight and really narrow,” Blaney explained. “You can look at some corners and try to figure out passing zones, but until you kind of get out there and racing cars and you can see where you get runs on people that’s kind of hard to figure out. Coming off of turn eight leading onto the backstretch that’s a big speed place where you’re going pretty fast.”
Blaney enters the final race of the Round of 16 as the driver in the cutoff position. He is 81-Points behind Championship Points Leader Martin Truex, Jr. Blaney’s cushion over Clint Bowyer is just four points.