Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney earned the pole during Bush’s Beans Qualifying for Sunday’s Food City 500 (3:30 p.m., FOX, PRN Radio) with a qualifying best lap of 123.253 mph, covering Bristol Motor Speedway’s challenging concrete half-mile in 15.568 seconds in his No. 12 Team Penske machine.

Blaney, 30, the track-record holder at Bristol with a speed of 132.075 mph set in April 2019, is still looking for his first Bristol Cup win. Blaney has victories in both Xfinity and Trucks at the demanding Tennessee short track, but would love to add a Bristol Cup win to his resume.

If he does win tomorrow, he would join an elite list of drivers including Kyle Busch Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin as drivers who have won in all three of NASCAR’s major touring series at Thunder Valley.

“I can’t remember the last time I qualified first,” said Blaney of his 10th career pole in his 311th Cup Series race and first pole since 2022 in Richmond, Virginia.

“The track kind of caught everybody by surprise,” Blaney said. “The time fall-off and the grip loss behind the wheel was incredible. It was like ‘Who cannot mess up a lap and still put a decent time down?’

“It was a challenging day out there trying to figure out what the car was doing and what the track was doing…. It was a fun, super-neat thing to try and figure out. It’s cool that we were able to finish off a fun day by qualifying first.”

Rookie Josh Berry will start on the outside front row for the first time in his Cup Series career as he powered his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing machine to a second-best performance of 124.792 mph.

The second row will be comprised of last year’s Night Race winner Denny Hamlin and three-time BMS Cup winner Joey Logano. Chase Elliott will start fifth in his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.

“There’s going to be a lot of people out there really scratching their heads tonight, trying to figure out what the track is going to be like tomorrow with the race,” Blaney said. “I’m gonna watch this truck race tonight and see what happens there and we will go from there.”

TRUCK NO. 1 QUALIFIER: Christian Eckes led the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series field Saturday afternoon to win the pole during Bush’s Beans Qualifying for tonight’s WEATHER GUARD Truck Race.

Eckes, 23, drove his No. 19 Chevy to the top spot with a performance of 126.888 mph (15.122 seconds) to grab the spot over Nick Sanchez, who will start on the outside of the front row in his No. 2 Chevy after his qualifying attempt of 126.212 mph.

This is Eckes’ seventh career pole and second at Bristol.

Taylor Gray, Cup Series regular Kyle Busch, who has five Truck victories at Bristol in his career, former Bristol winner Ty Majeski and red-hot breakthrough winner Rajah Caruth rounded out the top five in qualifying.

NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying - Food City 500 Starting Lineup 
Bristol Motor Speedway 
Bristol, Tennessee 
Saturday, March 16, 2024 

  1. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 124.954 mph. 
  2. (4) Josh Berry #, Ford, 124.792 mph. 
  3. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 124.178 mph. 
  4. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 123.746 mph. 
  5. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 122.882 mph. 
  6. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 122.858 mph. 
  7. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 122.108 mph. 
  8. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 121.666 mph. 
  9. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 121.612 mph. 
  10. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 114.603 mph. 
  11. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 0.000 mph. 
  12. (20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 0.000 mph. 
  13. (21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  14. (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  15. (43) Erik Jones, Toyota, 0.000 mph. 
  16. (71) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  17. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  18. (7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  19. (54) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 0.000 mph. 
  20. (31) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  21. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  22. (10) Noah Gragson, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  23. (45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 0.000 mph. 
  24. (38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  25. (41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  26. (42) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 0.000 mph. 
  27. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  28. (99) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  29. (48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  30. (16) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  31. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  32. (51) Justin Haley, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  33. (15) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  34. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 0.000 mph. 
  35. (77) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph. 
  36. (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.