Ryan Blaney wins first Cup pole; 11 cars fail inspection, don’t make a qualifying attempt

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Ryan Blaney scored his first career NASCAR Cup pole Friday at Kansas Speedway and gave the Wood Brothers their first pole since 2004 with Ricky Rudd.

Blaney earned the top spot for Saturday night’s race after a lap of 189.600 mph. Joey Logano (189.540 mph) will start second, giving Ford the front row.

The pole earns Blaney a spot in next year’s Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

“We got better and better each round,” Blaney told Fox Sports 1. “Honestly, I didn’t think I got through that lap that great.”

Martin Truex Jr. (189.201) qualified third. He’s followed by Talladega winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (188.851) and Kyle Busch (188.495).

Twenty-one cars were in inspection when qualifying started. Among those were: Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Clint Bowyer’s car goes though inspection during qualifying Friday at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Eleven cars hat did not make it through inspection before the first round ended, including those of Earnhardt, Kahne, Johnson, Bowyer and Jones.

“Super disappointing,” Bowyer said. “You are off 10-thousandths of an inch. It is ridiculous. Most people can’t even understand how little that is. I get it. If you are off, you are off, but I watched my guys move the car and adjust the car accordingly for it and then actually overcompensate on it because we were worried about not making it. Then they wheel it back in and fail the exact same amount? Twice? That makes no sense. None.”

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told Fox Sports 1 that a majority of the issues for teams were with the Laser Inspection Station.

“Competitors are pushing the limit and they’re not making it,” Miller told Fox Sports 1. “It’s disappointing I’m sure, to a lot of the competitors that they weren’t able to qualify, but it’s disappointing to us that they aren’t presenting their cars in a way that they make it through inspection. Kind of the worst of both worlds actually.”

In the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track — Texas in April — nine cars failed to make it through inspection before the first round of qualifying ended. Among those were Earnhardt and Kahne.

Michael McDowell‘s team did not make an attempt. He blew an engine at the end of the final Cup practice session. With McDowell guaranteed a starting spot, the team elected to focus on the engine change.

Click here for qualifying results

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Ford chooses Sebastien Bourdais replacement for Le Mans (and it isn’t Tony Stewart . . . yet)

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Ford has chosen a replacement for injured Sebastien Bourdais at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is expected to announce the driver soon – but don’t hold your breath NASCAR fans.

It isn’t Tony Stewart, who has indicated his desire to run the renowned event.

While taping an upcoming episode Thursday of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ford Performance director Dave Pericak said the three time champion who returned from NASCAR’s premier series last year still is lobbying “every time he sees us” to race a Ford GT car.

“We love Tony, and he wants to get behind the wheel of that GT but not at LeMans” in 2017, Pericak told NBC Sports at the Ford Performance Technical Center.

However, the new co-driver will be relatively inexperienced on the famous Circuit de la Sarthe road course in France. Pericak said Ford’s high-tech simulator (which mainly is used for NASCAR but also is used for sports cars and street models) at its North Carolina facility would help prepare the replacement.

“We will be using the simulator heavily between now and then for that driver to become fully up to speed not only in the GT but at Le Mans,” Pericak said. “There’s a great example of where we’re going to get tons of hours behind the wheel before that driver gets on an airplanes and heads over the France.

“The realism is unbelieveable. It’s a fantastic tool to have with this situation. Otherwise, you pick a driver, send him to Le Mans and take your chances. We’re going to be much more prepared. We already have the simulator ready to run that track because we ran it all last year.”

Returning to France last year, Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Chip Ganassi Racing GT driven by Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller.

Bourdais, who suffered pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash last Saturday, was released from an Indianapolis hospital Thursday.

“Thank God, he’s going to be OK,” Pericak said. “We’ve talked to him, he’s in good spirits, but we’re really pleased he’s going to make a full recovery.”

Pericak said an announcement of Bourdais’ replacement was likely Thursday or Friday.

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)