NASCAR

Logano uses fast late lap to claim pole in Phoenix

Posted March 17

Joey Logano walks before qualifications for Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Friday, Match 17, 2017, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

— Joey Logano capped a day in the spotlight with a fast late lap Friday to claim the pole for the NASCAR Camping World 500.

With the temperature in the low 90s and the sun beginning to set, Ryan Blaney qualified second to give Ford the top two spots to start Sunday's race.

Logano and Blaney bumped Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolet out of the top spot he had held through most of the final five-minute qualifying round on Friday.

The day began for Logano with a meeting with Kyle Busch and NASCAR officials about the crash and subsequent scuffle late in last Sunday's race in Las Vegas.

Logano had the fastest lap through two rounds but the top 12 have to start from scratch and qualify in the third round. He won with a top speed of 137.321 mph on the Phoenix International Raceway track made slick by the heat.

Busch qualified ninth.

"There's I guess a lot of distractions that we don't typically have," Logano said. "It's just a matter of managing those distractions and keeping your head back in the right spot for when it's game time."

Drivers waited as late as possible in all three rounds to hope for slightly cooler weather to boost their speed.

But all were prepared for a long, hot day on Sunday, when the high is predicted to hit 96 degrees.

Bring it on, Logano said.

"I think racing in the heat of the day, when it's hot out, is the best racing, and I think maybe the whole garage may agree," he said. "When it's hot, the track gets wide, it's greasy, there's a lot more passing, tires become more important because there's more fall-off."

Logano won his 18th career pole but first in 17 races in Phoenix. He won the Can-Am Sprint Cup Series race on the same track last Nov. 13, the next-to-last race of the season.

"I'm just glad we finally got a pole here," Logano said. "I don't know what our average starting position is, but I feel like it's really good, but we've never really put the whole deal together in the last run."

Blaney, 23, qualified in the No. 2 spot for the second week in a row.

Blaney's Wood Brothers racing team works closely with the sophisticated operation of the Penske group, where Logano is a driver.

"That's been a huge help and the Penske group has been very open to what we need," Blaney said, "not only on the driver side with Brad (Keselowski) and Joey, but on the team side as well."

Defending champion Kevin Harvick, an eight-time winner in Phoenix, had trouble and qualified 23rd. He is in the first season in a Ford after driving Chevrolets his entire career.

Three cars will have 15-minute practice holds on Saturday for rules infractions detected in Friday inspections. The drivers are Ty Dillon, David Ragan and Austin Dillon.

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