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Ryan Blaney wants more ovations, but there’s one he’d rather forget

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Ryan Blaney loves applause, such as when he’s introduced before a NASCAR Cup race or the kind he received after each of his four Xfinity Series wins and four Camping World Truck Series wins.

But there’s a round of applause and even a standing ovation Blaney once received that – well, after a humbling and embarrassing experience – he’ll make sure it never happens again.

Even though he drives the No. 21 Ford Fusion for the legendary Wood Brothers, Blaney is still a part of Team Penske, as well.

We’ll let Ryan tell the story:

“The one thing you don’t want to be is late to a Penske breakfast. You’ve got everybody there. Mr. Penske is there and all the brass and I walk in late.

“I don’t know what happened. I don’t think I overslept. I might have overslept, but I got there and there was a standing ovation.  That was like in 2012 or 2013, right when I got there, and you talk about wanting to walk out of the room.

“I started sweating bullets and was just as nervous as can be, and then you’ve got to go up and give a speech right after that. That was a rough day for sure, so I make sure I’m one of the earliest to the Penske breakfast.”

On a more pleasant note …

Blaney will be starting his second full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next month at Daytona. His rookie season had its share of ups and downs in 2016.

He earned three top-five and nine top-10 finishes, but a rough second half not only cost him Rookie of the Year honors to Chase Elliott, Blaney also failed to make the playoffs and finished 20th.

Since the conclusion of the season-ending race at Homestead, Blaney has been anticipating the 2017 season, ready to put to practice some of the lessons he learned along the way.

“I think you learn the most about trying to improve your car over the whole race, and the amount of preparation and setup time it takes to get these cars to where you need to be,” Blaney said during this week’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Most of the time, if you’re not fast on Friday or Saturday it really makes for a tough weekend.

“The preparation before you even get to the track is key, to try to be as close as you can be. As drivers, we can only do so much about that, but trying to give the best information that you can throughout the whole weekend – Friday, Saturday and during the race on Sunday – is so key.

“That was probably one of the biggest things I tried to work on and get better at. I spent a lot of time in the off-season trying to do just that, and then the communication side between myself and my engineers and crew chief.”

With one of the biggest sports car races in the world – the Rolex 24 – taking place this weekend at Daytona, Blaney admits he wouldn’t mind giving a sports car a whirl some day.

“With the Ford GT program starting up and it doing so well, I would love to do that,” he said.“I would love to do the Rolex 24 or anything like that – one of the bigger races or even a smaller race.

“I love road courses and Ford has made a big commitment into the GT program and the Mustang program, so that’s something I would highly enjoy doing if I ever got a call or opportunity from Mr. Penske or Ford, I would definitely do that in a heartbeat.”

And if he did well, the resulting applause – and maybe even a standing ovation – would be welcome this time.

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Kyle Busch wins pole for Truck Series race at Atlanta

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Kyle Busch won the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his second Truck Series pole at the track.

Driving his No 4. Toyota, Busch put down a top speed of 179.743 mph.

Matt Crafton qualified second with a speed of 179.220 mph.

“My lap was pretty good, certainly felt more stuck (to the track) the first time around than the second time around,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “We even picked up a little bit of time on that second one. … We were really, really tight here last year and made some good changes to it through the offseason with notes and things and coming back here better prepared.”

The top five is completed by Noah Gragson (179.214), Spencer Davis (178.862) and Justin Haley (178.775).

Gragson and Davis give Kyle Busch Motorsports three of the first four starting spots.

Johnny Sauter, who won last week at Daytona, will start ninth.

Busch’s pole is his second of the weekend. He also won the pole for Sunday’s Cup Series race.

The Active Pest Control 200 begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Christopher Bell on Xfinity pole at Atlanta

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HAMPTON, Georgia — Rookie Christopher Bell qualified first for Saturday’s Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a 181.176-mph lap in his No. 20 Toyota.

it’s the second pole in 10 starts for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Joey Logano was second in his No. 22 Ford, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer and Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the Xfinity Series qualifying results and click here for the Xfinity lineup by row.

The Xfinity race will start at 2:16 p.m. ET, starting a doubleheader with the truck series at Atlanta.

Sunday’s Atlanta race moved to 1:06 p.m. ET start with threat of weather

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HAMPTON, Georgia – The threat of inclement weather has moved up the start of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway by an hour.

NASCAR announced Saturday morning that the green flag will fall on the second race of the 2018 season at 1:06 p.m. ET.

Races become official after the second stage. The second stage of Sunday’s 500-mile race will end on Lap 170 of 325.

The wunderground.com site calls for an 80 percent chance of rain Sunday with the forecast worsening from 10 a.m.

Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson top list of drivers docked practice

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HAMPTON, Georgia — Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both will be held during the final Cup Series practice Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Because his No. 78 Toyota failed to clear prequalifying inspection three times Friday, Truex will miss the final 30 minutes of the 80-minute session that will begin at noon ET. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet will be out for the last 15 minutes because it failed the new Optical Scanning Station twice.

Harrison Rhodes also will miss 15 minutes for failing inspection twice. Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gray Gaulding Jr., Michael McDowell and Cole Whitt each will miss 15 minutes because they were late to qualifying inspection.

NASCAR changed its policy on how practice holds will be conducted this season. Instead of serving the penalty in the pits at the start of the session, drivers will park their cars for the length of the penalty up until the end of the session.