Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will start Thursday’s second Can-AM Duel qualifying race from ninth position after Blaney was 18th fastest in Sunday’s pole qualifying for the Daytona 500.
Blaney’s qualifying speed of 191.746 miles per hour was a bit disappointing given his speed in Saturday’s practice session. There he was fifth fastest with a best lap at 192.980 mph.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood, after seeing several drivers who qualified just before or just after Blaney also post speeds off their practice pace, said an unfavorable headwind likely was to blame.
“Ryan said he really couldn’t feel anything different, but the wind was probably a factor on his lap,” Wood said. “Still, we’re really happy with the effort so far, and I’m optimistic about the Duels and the Daytona 500.”
Blaney, in his post-qualifying comments, also was a little puzzled by his lap.
“I’m not really sure where our speed went, but we’ll have to go back and figure out where that went overnight,” he said. “No matter. I think we’ll have a good handling car in the Duels, so we’ll just go racing there and see if we can start up front in the 500.”
Unlike previous seasons, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are assured of a starting berth for the 500 after the Wood Brothers rented a charter, which brings with it guaranteed starting spots for races this season.
“Being guaranteed to start the race regardless of how things go in qualifying is a comfortable feeling,” Wood said.
The Can-AM Duel 150-mile qualifying races are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1, and the Daytona 500 should get the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX.