Ryan Blaney waited until the closing minutes of knock-out qualifying Saturday to earn his first career Nationwide Series pole for Sunday’s Get to Know Newton 250 at Iowa Speedway.
Attempting to make the field in his 21st NNS start, Blaney covered the .875-mile oval with a field-best lap of 136.081 mph at 23.148 seconds to earn the Coors Light Pole Award.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr. was second-fastest (136.063 mph) and will start on the outside pole, the fifth time he has earned a top-10 start in six races at Iowa Speedway.
Fellow JGR driver Michael McDowell was third-fastest (135.963) , followed by fourth-fastest Regan Smith (135.665) and fastest qualifying rookie, Dylan Kwasniewski (135.525).
Just hours after graduating from high school in suburban Atlanta earlier in the day, Chase Elliott qualified sixth (135.437). The 18-year-old Elliott comes into Sunday’s race leading the NNS standings by one point over Elliott Sadler, and is seeking his third win of the season.
Qualifying seventh through 10th were Brian Scott (135.176), Sadler (135.141), Landon Cassill (135.083) and Brendan Gaughan (134.368).
A total of 40 drivers qualified for Sunday’s race.
“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.
“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”
The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).
“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.
“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”
“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”
Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:
Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).