HAMPTON, Ga. — For the first time since 1965, Fords swept not only the first two rows; rather, they swept the first four rows.
The Fords, led by Team Penske, were fast in both qualifying sessions as Joey Logano took his No. 22 Autotrader Ford Mustang to the top of the board for his second pole in three races. Logano bested his Penske Racing teammates, Austin Cindric by only six thousands of a second, and Ryan Blaney by 28 hundredths of a second.
This is the first time in Team Penske’s stock car history that their drivers would sweep the top three spots on speed.
It took a perfect lap to grab the pole, and Logano said his Autotrader Ford ran great by itself, now it just needs to run that well during the race.
Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 offers a lot of questions about how this race will run. Drivers continue to reference this venue as the “new Atlanta” and a superspeedway race where drafting will come into play.
For Logano, he noticed the different lines that drivers were working with during qualifying.
“There certainly are a lot more options for us on the track,” Logano said. “When the grip limit is reached, you have options to move around. But when you’re wide open all the way around, it’s still more car than driver.”
The superspeedway version of Atlanta is different than Daytona and Talladega. This track opens up windows where drivers like Logano can be at least a little impactful.
Logano was a little excited about this pole, as he said, “I’ve never been on the front row of a superspeedway race, let alone a pole, so this is really cool and hope I can keep it up there.”
One of the many challenges drivers will face during the race on Sunday is a new pit road entrance which starts on the exit of the backstretch by Turn 3. Some drivers took the opportunity to practice entering pit road on their qualifying lap.
As Logano said, “I did a rolling speed through the corner as they only have the timing lines on during the first lap, then shut them off. Some drivers throughout qualifying would bailout on the backstretch after Lap 1 and work on their entry. We saw some things that didn’t make it viable for us to try that.”
Green flag pit stops were not commonplace during much of this race a year ago, but if speeding becomes an issue under green, Logano fears that drivers could lose a minimum of two laps, so locking in the speed is important.
The No. 22 will have plenty of speed on the race track, and hopefully just enough on pit road. Logano hopes to have a little luck as well especially after sitting on the pole in Las Vegas two weeks ago, where he didn’t finish the 400-miler.