NEWTON, Iowa — official release — Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images photo — Ten races, 10 polesitters.
The season-long trend of a new driver on the pole for every NASCAR Nationwide Series race continued Saturday at Iowa Speedway.
Ryan Blaney, who missed all of Friday’s track time, won the 21 Means 21 Pole for the first time in the Nationwide Series with a best speed of 136.081 mph.
Blaney’s run comes less than 24 hours after the driver was caught up in a wreck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte. He flew out to Iowa followingthat event, landing at approximately 4 a.m. He was in the car for the first practice, which started at 12:30 p.m. ET.
“I haven’t had the best two to three weeks,” Blaney said. “I’ve been caught up in wrecks, and been in some that were my fault. It’s been tough. But you have to put that behind you right away and focus on the task at hand. I can think about Friday night all I want, but it’s kind of irrelevant to keep thinking about it. I can’t change it.”
Blaney edged Joe Gibbs Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr. for the pole by a scant 0.003 seconds.
Hornish jumped up to the second spot after taking his first qualifying lap with one minute left in the final 10-minute session, posting a speed of 136.062 mph.
Rounding out the top five is Michael McDowell (135.963 mph), Regan Smith (135.665 mph) and Dylan Kwasniewski (135.525 mph).
The performances from Hornish and McDowell give Joe Gibbs Racing two cars in the top three on the grid. Neither is the full-time driver of his respective car.
Sunday’s Get to Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams will be McDowell’s first series race of the year — Hornish has one start in the No. 54, a fifth-place run at Talladega.
“With my Sprint Cup program, I come into this opportunity and don’t ask a lot of questions,” McDowell said. “It is tough to plug in with a new team and a new series, but when the car unloads that well, it makes my job a lot easier, for sure.”
Chase Elliott was the first one out of his stall for the final session, but he waited on pit road for three minutes before getting onto the track. Those who followed Elliott — Smith, Brian Scott and Blaney initially — stayed on pit road for another two minutes. Blaney finally pushed off at the halfway point of the 10-minute session, and he surpassed Elliott’s time. It was a mark that wouldn’t be topped.
Elliott, who graduated high school earlier Saturday, qualified sixth with a speed of 135.437 mph.