With a strong ninth-place qualifying result on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway, Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center team set themselves up to earn some valuable stage points in Sunday’s Alabama 500.
Blaney, one of the drivers in the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, knows that earning stage points will be important if he hopes to advance to the Round of Eight, which begins after next week’s race at Kansas Speedway.
By starting ninth on Sunday, Blaney will be in a better position to be among the top 10 at the end of the first of two 55-lap stages. Up to 10 points are available to winners of each of the first two stages, and the top 10 finishers in stages earn points based on their finishing positions at the end of each stage.
Blaney enters Sunday’s race 11th in the standings but just five points shy of being among the elite eight that will advance to the next playoff round.
After qualifying, Blaney gave the Quick Lane team the credit for his success in qualifying.
“I thought we had decent speed,” he said. “We’re wide open. Drivers don’t do much here. (Crew chief) Jeremy (Bullins) and everybody on the team set it up.
“I thought we had a good car. We’ll see what we do Sunday.”
Blaney and the Quick Lane team have had good speed all weekend at Talladega. He was third fastest in the opening practice on Friday with a best lap at 197.798 miles per hour. Satisfied with their speed, the team sat out the final practice session.
On Saturday, he was eighth fastest in the first qualifying round with a speed of 189.676 mph, then ninth in the second and final round with an almost identical lap at 189.669 mph.
“It’s not bad,” Blaney said. “It’s a good place to start.”
The Alabama 500 is set to start just after 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.