Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – LAS VEGAS, NV – Ryan Blaney did a double take.
The No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, decked out in its traditional red, white and gold colors, drove past Blaney in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage.
That was the car Blaney drove last year before moving to Team Penske for the 2018 season. He felt an eerie sense of familiarity before snapping back to reality.
“I’ll be honest with you. It was really, really weird today,” Blaney said after winning the pole for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “That’s the first time they have run the old school Motorcraft scheme. They didn’t run it at Daytona or Atlanta, so it was strange watching that car today.
“Then (current Woods Brothers driver) Paul (Menard) comes walking down for qualifying, and he’s in the same suit I was in last year. Not the same one, but the same style. That was super weird. It was like the Twilight Zone.
“I’m going down pit road, and his helmet is white like mine was last year. It’s the exact same way that I think I looked. But it was super weird.”
Blaney, incidentally, was also fastest in final practice on Saturday. Posting a lap at 186.445 mph.
KYLE LARSON LEADS A CHEVY SHOW IN SATURDAY’S FIRST PRACTICE
On Friday, three Fords paced Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying, with Ryan Blaney taking the pole, Kevin Harvick posting the second fastest lap and Kurt Busch claiming the third spot on the grid.
In Saturday morning’s first practice, however, Chevrolet drivers turned the tables, setting the three fastest speeds in their new Camaro ZL1 race cars.
Kyle Larson topped the speed chart at 187.559 mph, followed by Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.
“The car is really good,” Larson said after the session. “We tested here about a month ago and were fast and got a good balance on our car. I think this practice we were just kind of chasing the track a little bit. I was loose the first few runs we did and worked on tightening it up and then we put a set of stickers (new tires) on there a few laps there at the end, ran a fast lap.
“But it went tight really fast. So I think, if we would have just waited to practice and left the same set-up on there to start, we would have been fine. The track just went through a lot of changes, transition, I think.”
In final practice, under slightly warmer conditions, Larson was second fastest behind Blaney.
Defending race winner Martin Truex Jr., who celebrated his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in Las Vegas last November, showed up during final practice, posting the third-fastest lap at 186.091 mph. It was the Vegas race in March that launched Truex’s title run. That was the first of his eight victories last year, and seven of those wins came on 1.5-mile intermediate speedways…
Denny Hamlin cut a tire during Saturday’s first practice and blew apart a brake duct, causing a brief caution in the session… Kyle Larson had the fastest consecutive 10-lap average in Happy Hour, running 183.935 mph.