In his second Atlanta Motor Speedway appearance in a Monster Energy Cup car, Ryan Blaney picked up considerably from a year ago by posting the 14th best lap in Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Blaney advanced out of the first of three qualifying rounds with a lap at 187.875 miles per hour. In the second round, he was again 14th, with a speed of 186.623. Last year he started 23rd.
Atlanta is a track where the Blaney family has shown great speed. Blaney’s father Dave, now retired from the Cup series, had one of his best career runs at Atlanta in the spring race of 2001, when Ryan was just seven years old.
In that race, Blaney started seventh and was dominating the race by the midpoint in Bill Davis Racing’s No. 93 Dodge.
Blaney took the lead for the second time on Lap 149 and led for 12 laps. He regained the top spot at Lap 164 and drove away from the field, leading 54 straight laps.
But his charge ended at that point when his crew left lug nuts loose on his car, and he fell out of contention.
For his career, his 91 laps led at Atlanta were more than at any other track.
Ryan Blaney said his father has talked to him about what it takes to be fast on Atlanta’s worn pavement.
“He’s helped me out on driving on slick worn-out race tracks,” Blaney said. “He was really good here at Atlanta and at Darlington.”
“That comes from him racing on dirt and being light on the throttle.”
Blaney said he would like to honor his father by winning a race at Atlanta – or any other track for that matter.
“It would be cool to get a win for dad here or at least have a good run,” he said.
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew also have been hard at work figuring out how to be fast on tracks like Atlanta, where conserving tires is one of the keys to success.
“We’ve put a lot of thought over the winter into what we need to do with the race car to be successful on old tracks and with slick tires,” he said, acknowledging that the work they’ve done in that regard won’t be as helpful when the circuit returns to Atlanta next year and races on a repaved surface.
“I hate to see old pavement go,” Blaney said. “Any driver in this garage will tell you they love racing on worn pavement, but this track’s time has come.”
The Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 is set to get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.