The first road course of the season awaits teams and drivers this weekend in Austin, Texas. Rain was the main storyline when the Cup Series visited Circuit of the Americas last year during the shortened inaugural event. There is no rain in the forecast this weekend, which bodes well for the debut of the NextGen car on a non-oval.

There are 39 cars entered in the event, with the field being split into two groups for practice and qualifying. When the dust settled, it was Ryan Blaney that earned pole position for tomorrow’s race.

Blaney recovered from a crash in practice to post the fastest lap in the final round of qualifying at 92.759 mph (2 minutes, 12.343 seconds) to take the top spot. This is the second pole this season for the Team Penske driver, and the 8th of his career.

“I wouldn’t have thought we’d sit on the pole after I hit the fence,” Blaney admitted. “I appreciate the fast car and I appreciate the soft wall that was over there and the resilient race car. I wouldn’t say I’m the best road course racer. I kind of struggle and always look to find speed, and it was cool that we had it today in qualifying, so hopefully, that carries over to tomorrow. But proud of everybody here on the 12 group and excited for tomorrow. It’s a pretty good surprise after practice. So good job by everybody.”

Joining Blaney on the front row tomorrow will be TrackHouse Racing driver Daniel Suarez. The Chevrolet driver is hungry for his first victory, and like Blaney, has been knocking on the door all season. After struggling in practice, Cole Custer led the first group in qualifying and will start 3rd tomorrow. “I think we have a pretty solid Mustang,” he said. “The guys did a great job in the shop, everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing has been working so hard. The brakes are so big, you’re able to really get after it.”

Tyler Reddick continues his hot streak and will start from the outside of row 2 for Richard Childress Racing. Alex Bowman and Joey Logano will start from row 3 with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin sharing row 4. Justin Haley and Austin Cindric round out the top ten starters at COTA.

Kurt Busch had a solid run and starts 11th while defending race winner Chase Elliott starts from the 12th position. Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe, and Kyle Busch complete the top 15 starters. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota led the practice session but did not advance out of the first round of qualifying. “No grip, feels horrible, nothing like the first run,” Busch told his team over his radio. “We’re not gonna (expletive) beat anything. Useless. Pointless. Done. Suck.”

While Kyle was not pleased with the result, he does enjoy the break from traditional oval racing. "I’ve always enjoyed the road racing," he said. "Back years ago, when we had two on the schedule – Sonoma and Watkins Glen – it was kind of fun because it was like an off-week. You would go and enjoy the experience and try to learn and get better at it each time that you would do it, but now that there is six of them on the schedule, it’s definitely more loaded towards needing to be good at it."

Elliott can tie Tony Stewart for the second-most all-time road course wins tomorrow with a victory. The Hendrick Motorsports driver trails only Jeff Gordon on that list. He is the only member of the four-car team that has not won a race this season. Hendrick has won eight of the last 11 races overall as well as nine of the last 11 road courses.

Toyota remains winless this season, with their last victory coming at Darlington last year. That winning driver was Hamlin, who has had a dreadful start to the 2022 campaign. Hamlin is still searching for his first top-ten finish this year but he does have the third-highest average finish (8.92) on road courses.

“For our team, with how these first five races have gone, we’re ready to get to the track and get our season going in the right direction,” Hamlin said. “We’ve had good speed almost every week and almost nothing to show for it. Plus, being the first time racing these cars on a road course, there’s a lot to learn because road courses play such a big part of our season now, so this will be a big weekend and another opportunity to get things turned around.”

Another driver that needs to make up ground tomorrow is Brad Keselowski. Earlier this week, the driver and team owner was penalized 100 driver points and 100 owner points for violation of Sections 14.1 and 14.5 in the NASCAR Rule Book. Those sections are related to the modification of a single source supplied part. The team is appealing the penalty.

In addition to the points penalties, crew chief Matt McCall was fined $100,000 and suspended from the next four races. If Keselowski qualifies for the Playoffs, he will be hit with another deduction of ten Playoff points. The driver of the No. 6 Ford Mustang will start the race from the 26th position.

The 3.41-mile track is the first of six road courses on the 2022 schedule. The track has 20 unique turns, the first of which is a hairpin at the top an 11 percent gradient incline at the end of the long front straightaway. There is a series of esses, a blind corner, and another hairpin that drivers must navigate 68 times on Sunday.

Coverage for tomorrow's EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix begins at 3:30 PM ET on FOX.